I read this book right after I finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which is about magic and fairies and enchantment, and which is also a chunkster of a book. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society provided just the right breather I need after JS&MN because — pardon me if I use the same word as in the blurb — it is such a charming book. And uplifting. And more.
Julie Ashton is a writer in London and she has no idea what to write about in her next book. She receives a letter from a man who lives in Guernsey, an island along the English Channel, and eventually they become friends through a series of letters. Through their correspondence, Julie comes to know more about the beautiful island and a book club called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Julie decides to visit Guernsey and meet all the people of the book club and maybe, just maybe, she can finally write her book about them. Upon coming to the island, she immediately fell in love with it, its interesting history, and the new-found friends that she has made. Will she stay on the island for good? What about Markham Reynolds, her ardent suitor, who is bent on marrying her?
This is the second book I’ve read which uses the epistolary style to tell the story. The first one was the travelling book of the book club which I tremendously liked. But unlike 84, Charing Cross which is based on a true story, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is pure fiction. Still, the two books have the same quirky and charming female protagonists and the letters themselves are such a delight to read. Julie is very easy to like as her wit and eccentricities never fail to amuse me. Imagine throwing a teapot at your interviewer?
And then there’s the silent and brooding Dawsey, the man who sent the letter to Julie. I am drawn to silent men — I find them very mysterious and masculine (hihi) — and early on in the story I was kind of hoping that he and Julie will end up together. I wasn’t actually expecting a romance of some sorts while Julie is in Guernsey because her adventures on the island are as fun and interesting as they already are.
There is a bunch of other characters whose lives are as fascinating as that of Julie (especially that of Elizabeth) and together they make the reading experience more delightful. Add to that the fact that the setting was after the German occupation of Europe, and there are flashbacks as to how the islanders coped with hunger and poverty and curfews during the Nazi occupation.
I love reading about books and book clubs. Although I have not read most of the books mentioned, I still feel a kind of affinity with the characters and how passionate they are about their readings. I can relate to their sense of loyalty towards their book club and the strong ties of friendship that they have forged with their fellow club members. I have also been a member of a book club for quite sometime now and I can say that our book club has become more than just a club — it has become a family, and a rowdy (in a good-natured way) one at that! 😀
The turn of events in the book isn’t that charming as always but the author was still able to make reading it heart-warming. It is so easy to fall into the story and fall for the characters as well. Somehow, the book reminds me of the time when there were no emails yet and I got to write letters to friends and pen pals (I even wrote to Santa Claus once!). Oh, those were the days.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyhas the right amount of charm and loveliness and it has become one of my most favorite reads this year because, for one, it tolerates my penchant for reading and loving books:
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you on to another book, and another bit there will lead you on to a third book. It’s geometrically progressive — all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” (p. 10)
And for two, because it affirms that bookish people are the most wonderful people to surround yourself with:
“We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another.” (p. 46)
My copy: paperback from Booksale