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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer & Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

This novel created incredibly mixed feelings in me, beginning with the ridiculous, lengthy title that gives no hint as to what the book is actually about. I mean, it makes perfect sense once you've read it, but when this was brought up in book club, I thought, what the hell is that?!


This book and I started off on the wrong foot. I picked it up at the library and immediately saw a glowing endorsement from Elizabeth Gilbert on the cover. Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love is my most despised book of all time. So, when I opened the cover and saw that the book is entirely made up of letters, one of my least favorite story-telling tools, I almost quit at page one.


But everyone else in my book club was enjoying it, and I was interested in the WWII element of the story. I persevered.


In the end, I was glad that I did. While I never grew to appreciate the letter format and Juliet does have similarities to the self-absorbed Gilbert, the people of Guernsey drew me in. The fate of the channel islands during the war was an aspect of history that I had not even considered, and I absolutely fell in love with Elizabeth McKenna.


The story manages to flow between Holocaust tears to campy humor through the personalities and stories of the varied cast of characters, making this a quick and captivating read. Some of the attitudes were a little modern for the 1940s, but a large portion of the novel lacks seriousness anyway so I didn't get too worked up about it.


It's cute & touching, but in the end I agreed with Juliet's publisher and friend, Sydney. "Your book needs a center. I don't mean more in-depth interviews. I mean one person's voice to tell what was happening all around her. As written now, the facts, as interesting as they are, seem like random, scattered shots."


I found myself wishing that I could read the fictional story that Juliet was supposed to be writing, rather than this one. However, the characters do convince the reader to fall in love with them, even if they seem a little too good to be true.