Jarrah's Reviews > The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
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Juliet Ashton, author of the irreverent wartime Izzy Bickerstaff newspaper column, receives a letter from a Channel Islands farmer called Dawsey Adams. Dawsey tells her that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, formed under the German occupation during the war. Intrigued by the name, and suffering rather from the need for a new subject to write about, Juliet immediately writes back, and discovers a world of experiences that she, sitting in the ruins of post-Blitz London, didn't imagine any Englishman could tell of.

This is all kinds of fantastic. It's a book in letters, which can either be awkward or incredibly charming. This book goes the incredibly charming route - Juliet is vivacious and interesting, her relationship with her publisher is marvellous, and all the members of the literary society, with their experiences of discovering literature under occupation, are amazing. For most of the book, Shaffer walks the line between the charming vivacious tone and the darkness of wartime experiences with a very deft touch. About halfway through it slips a couple of times into too dark -- it becomes a bit jarring with the tone of the rest of the book, or, maybe, becomes too much textbook horrors-of-war, I'm not sure. But it recovers quickly, and possibly other people reading haven't thought that the balance was upset at all.

The book is also a love song to literature, but the frame story means that it works, there's no sense of it being crowbarred in. It's just a marvellous immersion. The resolution is maybe a tad unrealistic, but it's very lovely, and leaves you smiling and smiling. I was all ready to write the author down and look out for all her other books, since this was a debut, but sadly she was seventy years old and died before the book could actually come out.
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