The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love getting mail. The real kind–not those wads of ads that are stuffed into our tiny boxes every day, not the piles of bills we grudgingly tear open and pile on our kitchen table–but the real stuff, the invitations and packages, cards from Grandma, sometimes even an honest-to-god handwritten letter.

In this age of email, people hardly ever sit down to write anymore. For some reason, stationary stores are EVERYWHERE and we still buy the stuff all the time, because hey it’s pretty! But who really uses it? I have a drawer full of my stationary collection, and some of it is 10+ years old. We tried to get a Tumblr Pen Pal thing going last year, I wrote a few letters, and then it fell off. It just takes so much effort, and postage is expensive.

Still, letter writing is romantic. Before email and texting and even reliable phone connections, post was the way to go. Friendships were made and broken through snailmail. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows share a story full of letters that do just that, and the result is lovely.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society formed by accident one night as a cover-up during German Occupation. In order to keep the ruse going, the Guernsey islanders continued to meet and read and debate books they never thought they’d read. This continued even once the war was over, and thanks to the miracle of “traveling” used books, a column writer in London soon hears about the Society through one of the members. She becomes a pen pal to several of the people from the island and falls in love with the quaint place.

Shaffer began this manuscript, which is formatted all in letter exchanges between Juliet, her editor, friends, and the Guernsey people. However, she fell ill at the same time her publisher asked her to do a rewrite. Knowing she could not do so herself, she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to take on the project. The collaboration issued a gorgeous book that quickly became one I couldn’t put down. I love books in letter or diary format, and this was no exception. It frames WWII in a very unique light, giving some humor to a dark age, peace where there isn’t much.

My only real criticism is that I could not figure out Dawsey’s age. For most of the book, I pictured him as a kindly old man…which sort of threw off the perspective some. Once I realized he wasn’t as old as I thought, it made much more sense. He is quiet and kindly…but he’s younger than he seems at the beginning, or must be.

It took me way too long to pick this one off of my TBR shelf. If you haven’t gotten to it, move this very sweet book up your list!

 

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