Great White Snark: Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I promised you (like, two lifetimes ago) a book review on this book. First of all, can we just talk about how delightfully eccentric this title is? It's up there with Ella Minnow Pea. The title is important. I always envy people who can title things well, because it's one of my weakest points in writing. Such perfection! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society focuses on young writer, Juliet Ashton, as she exits her post as a satirical WWII columnist and attempts, along with European society at large, to move on with her life post-war. One day, Juliet receives a letter from Guernsey resident (and member of the Literary Society) Dawsey Adams, a man who has come into possession of a book that used to belong to her via used bookstore. He found her name and address in the booksleeve and decided to write to her to discuss the book. Thus began Juliet's correspondence with the island of Guernsey. The book is entirely epistolary (which I love! Dracula anyone?) and focuses on Juliet's letters to and from the residents of Guernsey as she tries, unhappily, to continue her life as an author in London. Her friendship blossoms and deepens with the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society until she feels that she has to go visit them. Her time on the island changes her life forever, and gives her the long sought-after topic of her next book. 

This book is so...divine. I haven't enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed this one in a LONG time. It's all about people who love books. There's something so intrinsically important about the written word, and the printed word, and this book captures that love. The characters are engrossing. I couldn't stop thinking about them! I found myself wishing they were real, and that I could take a boat to Guernsey and join them in their book discussions and general shenanigans. The story is constructed beautifully, too. There's not a single bit that's in there that shouldn't be, and meaning would be lost if anything was removed. Every word is perfectly placed, like pieces of a puzzle, and they come together to form something absolutely breathtaking. Though it deals with gritty topics like Nazi occupation and concentration camps, it maintains a loving, pleasant feel about it.

I wanted to share a couple of quotes. How could I not? 

“That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” 

“Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life.”  

“I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers-- booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one-- the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it-- along with first dibs on the new books.” 

“Thinking to comfort me, they said, "Life goes on." What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn't. It's death that goes on; Ian is dead now and will be dead tomorrow and the next year and forever. There is no end to that, but perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it.” 

“I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.”  

“After all, what's good enough for Austen ought to be good enough for anyone.”  

Gosh, I could quote the whole book here. Any book with quotes like that has to be worth reading, right? This is one of those books whose spine will be creased, and the pages well-worn with re-readings. I cannot recommend it highly enough. To everyone. ALL THE TIME.

In short: I laughed, I cried. It was perfect.

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