by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is written as a series of letters. In London just after World War II, writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a farmer in Guernsey, Channel Islands, who had found her name written on the flyleaf of a used book. Juliet strikes up a correspondence with the letter writer and other members of his book group — The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — which began as a shield from the island's Nazi occupiers. Juliet decides she has to go to Guernsey to meet her new friends in person, and thus the second part of the book features the letters she writes about them to her best friend and her publisher (who happens to be her best friend's brother) back home.
Juliet, who's been in search of an idea for a book, finds it in the stories of how the simple Guernsey residents coped with the Nazi occupation. Although the title The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society suggests that reading and books are going to have the spotlight, this novel is really about courage and survival.
Authors Mary Anne Shaffer and her niece, Annie Barrows, succeed at creating a real sense of time and place. They manage to give each of the letter writers a unique and charming voice. The book has some flaws — the characters are unbelievably endearing, and the resolution of Juliet's romantic life predictable. The tone may seem too light-hearted for the subject, but then, the examples of optimism in the face of life-threatening challenges are meant to inspire.
Readers loved this book: It was on the New York Times best-seller list for months. Sadly, coauthor Shaffer never knew what a publishing sensation her book became. When she died in February 2008, she only knew it was scheduled for publication.
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