Author: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows | Publisher: Bloomsbury
The war is over. Juliet Ashton is grappling with writer’s block when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – a total stranger living halfway across the channel, who has come across her name written in a second-hand book.
Juliet begins writing to Dawsey, and in time everyone in the extraordinary Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The society tell Juliet about life on the island – and the dark years spent under the shadow of German occupation. Drawn into their irresistible world, Juliet sets sail for Guernsey, changing her life – and theirs – forever.
I adored The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. Absolutely adored it. I was up all night reading it, and now have a desperate need to go to Guernsey. It was just honestly so brilliant. It was one of those books where you say “daaamn” when you finish it, and are then too excited to sleep (even though it’s like, 3am, because you couldn’t. Stop. Reading).
I was initially a little unsure because I watched the first 30 minutes of the film… Why just the first 30 minutes you say? Because it was sodding terrible, so after that I decided enough was enough, I wasn’t wasting any more of my time, and turned it off. I honestly want a refund. It was utter poop. Why, just why, did the actress playing Juliet keep giggling for no reason? And having now read the book, why on earth did they make the relationship between Juliet and Markham seem so happy? Why weren’t there people there to greet her on the pier when she arrived in Guernsey? They changed the storyline substantially, which made it poop, and then it made no sense whatsoever. No. Just no…
And then the book arrived…
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society is poignant, moving, romantic, sweet, and uplifting. It’s also unflinching, and relatively historically accurate – there are definitely some hard-hitting moments. It was utterly unlike anything else I’ve read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I fell in love with the characters, and through the use of the letter form you got a real sense of their voice. They were each so unique, and beautifully crafted, and the relationships between them had a very tangible warmth. I enjoyed the way they grew through the story arc, and I thought the pacing on that was perfect. You want to feel that things happened “naturally”. I particularly liked what was left out of the letters. I think it added to the authenticity, as you felt the letters might actually have been curated to tell a story. I also think, when it comes to the characters, that you could put together a case for feminist undertones. But it was pretty subtle. You didn’t feel at any point that the author had a point to make. It was all about telling a good story. But the touches of feminism, and of LGBT, gave it a modernity and timelessness which I think historical fiction needs in order to be relevant.
I loved the historical details, which not only gave the story a stage and a backdrop, but were integral to the actual plot. The characters were just so well contextualised, but yet didn’t feel dated. It was casually tactile, in the careful use of snippets of detail about the way things looked, smelled, felt. Too much detail, you start to wonder if anyone would actually put that in a letter; too little, and you lose the interconnectedness between place, time, and plot. It was skilfully done. I think I fell in love with the place, as much as the characters. Seriously, I’m going to Guernsey now… This book has clearly done wonders for their tourism industry…
The romance was heart warming and hopeful. And handled in a way that felt authentic, but wasn’t too touchy-feely. I really don’t have time for people emoting all over the show… Not my cup of tea! This wasn’t in any way over the top. I think what was more special though, was the friendship element to the plot. I don’t read a lot of books where adult friendships are given real space… I thought that was beautiful.
It had a predictability about it, which I found comforting. When you’re rooting for a character, you want it all to work out. But along the way, it was by no means all happy endings and there were a few little surprises.
This was one of those books that touches you. Skip the movie, read the book. But definitely read the book!