Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 of 5
This is one of those books that I never would have picked up on my own, but it was the book of the month for the Dewey Decimators. The cutesy title and dreamy cover were not encouraging, but it deals with events of World War II so I decided to give it a whirl.
The story consists of a series of letters chronicling the relationship between an author famous for her lighthearted articles during the war and various residents of Guernsey, most of whom formed a literary society during the German occupation of their island (something I knew nothing about before reading this book). The story ranged all over the place, including themes like: romance, relationships between these people, the consolation and companionship provided by sharing books, the atrocities and kindnesses of the occupiers, and how to cope with life after the war. The characters were well developed, but some of the minor ones came off as caricatures (not to mention that Isola was basically Granny Weatherwax from Pratchett’s Discworld series).
Much of the book is very moving as these (mostly) kind, gentle people are helping each other put their shattered lives back together. That said, something about the overall style of the book persistently annoyed me. I couldn’t put my finger on it until about halfway through the book the author character writes, “On the page, I’m perfectly charming, but that is just a trick I learned. It has nothing to do with me.” She is trying to be self-deprecating, but I think it is true – a lot of the letters (and not just hers) come across as if they are trying just a bit too hard to be witty, rustic, and/or quaint.
Overall, I’m glad I read this. It appeals to me as both a lover of history and lover of books. I just wish it weren’t quite so twee.