Primary setting: Guernsey Island. Secondary settings: London, Bath, Northern France.
World War II has just ended and all of Britain is picking up the pieces of their shattered lives, including our central character, Juliet, a London newspaper columnist, whose humourous work was a point of comic relief for many during the dark times of the war. By curious chance she falls into correspondence with the members of the The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. Guernsey, the sole part of Britain occupied by German forces during WWII, suffers even more darkly than London, and the trials and tribulations of the islanders is slowly revealed in their correspondence with Juliet. Among the society members are Dawsey, the quiet farmer who's as steady as a rock, unflappable Isola - who makes for a good amateur detective, Will - a dubious cook who nevertheless invents the title pie, and Booker - the valet turned nobleman with a passion of wine. Central to the story, however, are courageous, loyal, plucky Elizabeth and her precocious, ferret loving daughter Kit. The literary society was sprung from necessity by a quick witted Elizabeth when she was pressed for an alibi by the Germans, but it soon developed into a lifeline of friendship and survival for the lonely isolated, and frightened Guernsey residents
The story is compelling and often very humourous - I loved the scene of recycling a pig corpse to foil the Germans - with poignant stories of heartbreak woven throughout that highlight just how very much was lost by so many. Just like Juliet, the reader will be captivated by the Guernsey Islanders for their unflinching honesty, steadfast loyalty, and cheerful courage. Despite the heavy subject matter, the book manages to be lighthearted and good humoured throughout and it is hard to put it down once you start reading it. While it may be perhaps characterized more as a "woman's" novel, I think it would also appeal to male readers for the great writing, sharp humour, and insight into a rarely heard chapter of WWII history. A rare example of a modern poly-logic epistolary novel, it took me a few minutes to get into the rhythms of reading the characters' letters but very soon I wasn't even conscious of their correspondence as the letters melted away and the story took hold.
Would this book make me want to travel to Guernsey - absolutely! The island is portrayed with beauty, charm, and character, from the harbourfront to the cottages and the residents are given even higher praise. This would make for a perfect read for anyone travelling to that area and any reader would be hard pressed not to fall in love with Guernsey.
You can check out your local bookstore for a copy, or get this book from my Amazon store.
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