Sunday, July 25, 2010

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY - Annie Barrows

Jay County Public Library Book Club met tonight to discuss this selection. I believe we all agreed that it was delightful and we had a good time with it. Eight of us presented ourselves which is a good turnout for this group anymore.

The format of the book is in correspondence between a popular British author/essayist and some of her friends, fans, and her publisher following WW II. When the book begins Juliet is living in London and is recuperating from having lost all her belongings and her precious books in the bombings, and trying to keep her temper in check while dealing with the public during book tours. Her life is drastically changed once she strikes up an interest in the residents of the Island of Guernsey as they begin to tell her through their letters about the time under German occupation. There is much pain and loss revealed in their stories as they share with Juliet, but also they exhibit humor and show her their resilient spirit.

While it was a bit hard for me to get started I was hooked by about the third letter. There are a lot of characters but they all become real to the reader. The culture of the island is so fun to enter into and their stories are enthralling. Of course one of the best stories is the one about the pig party and how the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society got started. Bibliophiles will revel in how once the society members are forced to read to continue their “cover-up” they all get hooked on their particular books. They even cite from their readings (Austen, Shakespeare, Bronte) to Juliet as they correspond with her.

There are several websites devoted to this book and to Guernsey which are interesting to investigate. Now I want to go there!

I had not done any research on this title before we read it but I did notice as I read that the last one-third or so of it seemed to not have the exact same feel to it in writing style and even the plot lines seemed to me to get a bit cliché for this particular book, or a bit too predictable. Then I read that the author had died before the editing was complete so I am wondering if that had something to do with it.

But I still liked it a lot. Also, there is really no such thing as potato peel pie. That was made up during the writing of the book to illustrate that nothing was was wasted during the war.

PS
Did you know that the term for something constructed in the form of written letters is an epistolary? Therefore, this book is in epistolary form. Why did I not know that?

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