Chances are, you’ve already heard something about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s really worth your time. This charming little epistolary novel centers around writer Juliet Ashton, a London humorist who gained popularity at the end of World War II for making people laugh in the very worst of times. I have to admit, as a hardcore Daily Show viewer (I haven’t missed an episode in at least six years), the idea of a humorist specializing in making you forget the horror you’re living through is close to my heart. Juliet is funny and charming and witty and throws a pot of (lukewarm) tea at a particularly loathsome reporter (I imagine him with Robert Novak’s face. Or maybe Sean Hannity’s). It’s impossible not to love her.
As she’s looking for a topic for a new book, she receives a letter from a man named Dawsey Adams, a resident of the isle of Guernsey, which was brutally occupied by the Germans during the war. By a strange twist of fate, a book of Charles Lamb essays that once belonged to Juliet wound up in his hands and helped him laugh in the midst of the horror. Correspondence opens up between the two, partly from a shared love of literature and partly from curiosity about the war. The more Juliet learns about Dawsey and his island and his literary society, the more she wants to know, and soon she’s corresponding with the whole group.
I’ll grant you that the title of the book is cutesy—it certainly made me not want to read it. But the literary society in question is composed of such fabulous characters that it’s hard not to love them. (And as for their name, what do you expect to eat when Nazi troops have taken over your island and food is scarce?) This book is really quite touching, and if it’s not a deep exploration of the human psyche or a novel that pushes the boundaries of narrative, well, it’s not supposed to be. It’s a sweet premise, lovely characters, a little sadness, a lot of happiness, and a little bit about the triumph of the human spirit, all without too much saccharine aftertaste. I don’t think you could possibly go wrong giving this book as a gift to anyone who loves historical fiction, a little romance or just smiling.
Posted by alaubach