The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I’ve just read the most captivating book, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s not new, it’s from 2008, but I heard there was a movie coming soon, starring many of the Downton Abbey cast, so I decided it was time to get myself to the library and check it out.
I almost wrote this review halfway through the book because I was so delighted with the story! I remembered it was popular, but I’d forgotten that it was an epistolary novel, and I’d forgotten that an epistolary novel is a novel in letters. My apologies to my high school English teachers.
The book follows a writer, Miss Juliet Ashton, who has experienced mixed success with her books. The serious, important one sold poorly, and the fluff one did well. In the story, she is touring a collection of humorous essays written during World War II for the London paper.
What’s so enchanting about this story? It harkens back to a time when a dear man might write to an unknown woman, “I’d like to ask a kindness of you.” I must also admit that I felt a surge of nostalgia for the time in my life where I wrote real letters on paper. The pace of sharing one’s life with a friend in letters is so different from our current time. You took more time to describe what happened and you were careful about the tone. Above all else, you were entertaining and funny, or you told a heartwrenchingly beautiful story. You see all of that in this book.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a book
for people who remember writing letters on paper with a pen or pencil
for those who went to the mailbox with anticipation of a letter from a friend
for those who believe in love, of any kind, as I do
for one who would like to hear about London life after the second great war
for those who would like to learn about how the little British island of Guernsey located between England and France fared under Nazi occupation
Many wonderful characters dance across the pages. Romantics, sophisticates, a man who only wants to stick to one book, curmudgeons, brave ones, wise fools, mean neighbors, loud drunks.
I was impressed at how the plot lays out well though the letters, as it’s an uncommon form for a novel. Juliet tries to figure out the mystery of a little girl’s mother, a quiet farmer, and a sympathetic Nazi doctor. How does a polite young writer find these things out by letters from strangers loyal to their friends?
The movie drops onto Netflix August 10! Lily James (Lady Rose on Downton Abbey) will play Juliet, and I can’t wait to see if the filmmakers have done the story justice. If not, I’ll just read the book again.