Review: Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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My Rating: ★★★★★

Where do I even begin with this book and how much I love it? This epistolary novel begins when a young author, Juliet, gets a letter in the mail from a Mr. Dawsey Adams, who found a book that used to belong to Juliet. The two begin exchanging letters about Charles Lamb and the German Occupation. The book takes place in 1946, just after the conclusion of WWII, and many of the characters, as we find out, are still incredibly impacted by the war and its aftermath. Dawsey begins telling Juliet about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and the people that belong to it, enthralling both Juliet and readers. Having been recruited to write about the importance of reading, Juliet is soon exchanging letters and building friendships with all the members of the Society as she gathers material for her article. It is not long before Juliet is off to see Guernsey and meet the people she has come to love so well.

I am not generally one for books that are told in this format. I much prefer to explore and learn about characters throughout the novel rather than descriptions of them throughout letters. However, Mary Ann Shaffer has taught me that I was completely wrong. What was most incredible about this book was the depth and connection Shaffer was able to give each of the characters. I wanted more than anything to belong to their Society and befriend them myself. Shaffer’s descriptions of Guernsey itself also reeled me right in, and I often felt like I actually was right there with them. Juliet and Dawsey are easily my favorite characters. She is so witty and independent and he is so reserved and level headed that they give such contrasting views on the world, which I loved. I say they are easily my favorite but how can I forget Kit and Sidney and Elizabeth and Isola and Eben and Amelia? I’ve just listed almost all of the characters and I could go on but you get the idea. Each and every one of them were so unique and enjoyable to read about. I absolutely inhaled this book, reading it all in one day.

I gave this book five stars because that is the most Goodreads would allow for but that isn’t enough to describe how much I absolutely loved this book. Probably not since Tell the Wolves I’m Home have I been so sad to see a book end. I was so late to the party on this too, as it came out in 2008! I’ve had it on my shelf for AGES, having never picked it up. I’m already thinking about re-reading it because it was just an absolute gem of a book.

Fun Fact: I got my copy at a library book sale, and the previous owner put a return label on the inside cover JUST LIKE JULIET. Thinking of writing them and starting up our own Literary Society.

Favorite Quotes: (Bear with me, there were a LOT)

“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.”

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”

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

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”

“Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone new, that person’s name suddenly pops up everywhere you go? My friend Sophie calls it coincidence, and Mr. Simpless, my parson friend, calls it Grace. He thinks that if one cares deeply about someone or something new one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and “fruitfulness” is drawn in. ”

“I never met a man half so true as a dog. Treat a dog right, and he’ll treat you right. He’ll keep you company, be your friend, and never ask you no questions. Cats is different, but I never held that against ’em.”

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