This probably isn’t a book I would have chosen to read if left to my own devices, but it’s what my book club picked, so I tracked it down and bought a copy.
Told through a series of letters and telegrams and set a year or so after the end of World War II, the story follows the life of a humor writer, Juliet Ashton as she is finishing up a book tour of England and trying to figure out what to write about next, since she’s tired of the character she developed during the war. She receives a letter from a man named Dawsey from the island of Guernsey, who happened to buy a second-hand copy of Selected Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb that once belonged to Juliet (it had her name and old address written inside), because he is curious about Charles Lamb’s other works and wonders if she knows more about him. There aren’t many books left and no bookshops after the German occupation of Guernsey, so he has few ways to find and acquire new books.
In his letter, Dawsey also mentions a secret pig and the founding of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which piques Juliet’s curiosity so she writes back, beginning a correspondence with the various members of this not-so-ordinary book club. Along the way, Juliet encounters romance, sadness, and meets some extraordinary people who survived some extraordinary circumstances.
As I said at the beginning, this isn’t a book I would have picked up on my own, and I’m so glad that we picked it because it is a wonderful book. It’s funny and charming and I wanted to know more about Juliet from the first page. It’s full of eccentric characters who aren’t weird for the sake of being weird, but because history and geography aligned to give them viewpoints different from ‘normal’. It’s hard not to like the characters in this book, even the ones you don’t really meet.
It’s also hard to put this book down before you’ve finished the darned thing. I am definitely going to be picking up a few more copies of this book, because it is going to make a wonderful gift to my bookish friends and family!
“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”
-Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Two recent books I set aside:
- The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde- It had nothing to do with the weird cover fold that made turning pages weird. It had to do with the fact that I just didn’t find Thursday Next to be compelling enough character to wade through the weirdness of the world and the narrative.
- The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín- This is one of those Literary Works that talks quietly about every day happenings that can change the characters in profound ways, and describes events in painstaking detail. I have read books like this and loved them- Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus comes to mind- but Story of the Night just isn’t catching my attention like that. In this case, I will put it aside and try again later on.