Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Set in post war England and the Island of Guernsey, this little gem is a brilliant examination of the German occupation of the Channel Islands.  Mary Ann Shaffer is the principal author who was assisted in the book's completion by her niece Annie Barrows.  Mary Ann had some health issues that prevented her from finishing it herself.

The story is told in a series of letters to and from most of the characters.  Each is brilliantly formed in character and content.  I have been fascinated with the mostly lost art of letter writing.  Shaffer has given wings to that wonderful means of expression and perhaps new life to it as well.  Good letter writing is a joy!  You could sense it in the feelings of both writer and reader.  The trouble with email is not in it's length, but in it's quality.  We don't take the time to really write in email these days, we simply blurb.  Read the book and tell me you don't feel the same way. 

I was amazed at the German occupation of the Channel Islands.  A little corner of history that never even occurred to me.  It was both fascinating and appalling.  Through all the hardship, the quality of character and courage that prevailed is utterly inspiring.  The best part is that these were very ordinary people.  In Guernsey, even the Germans suffered untold privation. 

This was a book I was loathe to hurry through.  It was a delight on every page and I didn't want it to come to an end.  I count it as one of my favorite books of all time.  It is deep with substance and yet breezy with charm and cheer. 

Of that post war period one character, Amelia wrote, "Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take time to recede.  But already, there are small islands of - hope?   Happiness?  Something like them, at any rate."

Another time Amelia wrote, "My worries travel about my head on their well worn path, and it is a relief to put them on paper."  It became abundantly clear that correspondence was critical therapy and was in it's very nature cathartic.

I love this style of writing and hope to employ it someday.  Each character told her story in first person and in such an intimate and personal way that I found it hard to believe I was reading fiction.  I'd give my eye teeth to be personally included in that round of conversation or one like it.  Anybody want to be my pen pal?

1 comment:

Kate Weber said...

I've heard some good things about this book. Maybe I'll add it to my growing TBR list!

Great review!

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