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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Charming Epistolary Novel Warm and Fun

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With World War II raging all around, British writer Juliet Ashton tried to lift people's spirits by penning humorous pieces for her newspaper column.  Now that the war's over, she wants to write a novel.  The only trouble is she can't for the life of her figure out what it should be about.  

When Juliet receives an intriguing letter from Dawsey Adams, a dock worker who lives on the island of Guernsey, her interest is piqued.  She's especially curious about The Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club Dawsey and his friends formed during the war as a spur-of-the-moment excuse to explain to the occupying soldiers why they were breaking curfew.  As Juliet exchanges letters with Dawsey and other colorful members of the club, she becomes fascinated by their lives, the history of Guernsey, and the people's experiences during the war.  The more she corresponds with the islanders, the more she realizes she's found not only a fascinating subject for her book but also a new crop of dear, dear friends.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a charming novel told entirely in letters.  As you can tell from the plot summary, it's a character-driven tale—and what characters they are!  The beauty of this story really lies in its quirky cast.  Because of the islanders' lively personalities, the letters they write to Juliet are colorful and fun.  There isn't a lot of action to be had in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, so it feels a bit slow, especially at the beginning.  It gets better as it goes, however, and readers will soon find themselves wrapped up in the story of Guernsey.  I knew nothing at all about the island, so the historical bits interested me.  Like any book lover would, I also appreciated the novel's many nods to the power of books to bring people together, spur animated conversation, and comfort people in times of strife.  While I know plenty of people who absolutely adore this book, I ended up liking it, not loving it.  Still, it's definitely worth the read.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. I was only luke warm about this one as well. In fact, I don’t remember a thing about it. :(

    1. I liked it, but I didn't LOVE it like so many people seem to.

  2. I tried to read this book 2 times and I could never get into it. And I really wanted to like it!

    1. It's definitely a slow-starter. And, really, there's not much in the way of plot at all. I understand how you could have put it down—twice!

  3. I actually DNFed this one but went back to listen to it and enjoyed it so much more as an audio. It was a lovely little book and I liked the letter format. Great review!

    1. Really? Interesting. I'm glad the audio worked so well for an epistolary novel. I would think that would be tough to pull off.

  4. I really liked it when I read it several years ago. Did it with a book group and it was a big hit. I'm really fond of epistolary books though. And I didn't know anything much about Guernsey and the part played by the citizens in WWII. This book was kind of on the front end of the current WWII historical fiction. Bet it would be good as an audiobook. I might reread it that way.

    1. It was a big hit with my book club as well. I didn't know anything about Guernsey either, so it was fun to get another perspective on how the war affected different parts of the world.

  5. I've always been a fan of epistolary novels, and this is one of my favorites. :)

  6. I adored this book but I think a large part of that was because I listened to the audio and it was fantastic! I loved the history of it and ended up doing some more reading about Guernsey. I'm glad you enjoyed it though sorry you didn't love it.

  7. I didn't realize this one was in letters. That's good to know should I ever decide to read it as I've always heard so much about it.


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