Wed 16 Nov 2011
I am back from vacation and back to reading. Many people go on vacation and end up reading a few books. I have never been that type of vacationer, I tend to go on active vacations to cities as opposed to relaxing vacations on the beach. That said, I do end up reading on planes and trains and always have something with me. On my trip home from London the other day, I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
I have to say at the outset that I was thoroughly charmed by this book and it was fun finishing it on the way home from the city (London) where much of the book is set. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this book originally, although it has been a popular success with much written about it. In any case, despite what I thought was a potentially pretentious title, I am glad I picked it up.
About The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: “January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.”
The book, a work of fiction, is a collection of notes, letter, telegrams, etc. sent between the various characters telling their stories. The conceit of the narrative starts off a little challenging, but before long you are drawn into what seems like a purely organic conversation between the characters. Eventually you realize that every word in the book is attributed to a person, not a narrator or generic voice, which makes the stories of these people more powerful and human.
The backdrop to the book is the story of the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II, a chapter in history not as exposed as others, especially for American readers. The device of letters telling the story does get weighed down at times by the exposition surrounding the historical facts, but it is necessary and forgivable.
Again, I was charmed by the book, fell in love with many of the characters and even learned a little something about history – all the elements of perfect historical fiction.