Rose'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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's review
Aug 31, 2008

bookshelves: 2009, fiction
Read in September, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Oh, I feel like a bitch, but this book was just...too heartwarming, if there is such a thing. Despite the Nazi horrors, everyone is transformed by the redemptive power of reading, and there is a happy ending for everyone who isn't dead. The nasty rich old boyfriend gets the push (yay!), Juliet moves to the infinitely better Guernsey (yay!), marries the silent-but-apparently-irresistible islander (yay!), and adopts a cute little kid orphaned by the Nazis (more yay!).

Naturally, none of this is at all predictable. Well, the only bit that isn't predictable is that she marries a guy who seems to be utterly unattractive. He's a stolic, withdrawn, silent lover of Charles Lamb. Juliet only fell for him after he pulled the old trick of acting like he fancied some other girl and ignoring her. But don't worry! Juliet hems and haws over her romantic choices at great length with her homegirl, so there are no surprises coming.

The book's fine. It's just not really my type. It's too...literary chick-lit for me; it makes me feel manipulated, in some way I have no hope of analysing. Turn Left at the Daffodils was a similar experience. The story was interesting, but I felt like my reactions to the characters and plot was too engineered - like someone was holding up a sign saying "Be sad here" or "Woo, here's a happy bit, celebrate!".

I guess most fiction is intended to create particular emotions and reactions as the book is read, so what's the difference? I think it's a bit like when someone makes a nice comment about you - you always stop and ask yourself if it was flattery or genuine. You would be embarrassed with yourself if you let yourself believe a comment was truly meant when you suspected it was just flattery. Make any sense? Probably not.

John's review of You Shall Know Our Velocity! explores rather more eloquently what I was trying to say above:

I'm a little torn here, because I feel like I was supposed to like this book, so part of me wants to pretend that I didn't like it. It's like a movie where you know they are trying to make you cry, and you do cry, and then feel bad about it because you know that they played you like a fiddle.
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Reading Progress

09/15/2009 "Daniel, remembering your review of The Book Thief, you would hate this. Redemptive power of reading galore - and Nazis too!" 8 comments

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Yes, but would you describe the book as pablum?

message 2: by Rose (new) - added it

Rose It's several steps up from your absolute pablum. I'd describe it as book group pablum.

message 3: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I still will never, ever, ever, ever read this. Ever. Ever!

Glenda If it weren't pablum, would you have liked the way she used the "letters" device? The "letters" in multiple voices, I think was supposed to be part of the attraction of the book.

message 5: by Rose (new) - added it

Rose The epistolatory format was okay, although sometimes felt a bit shoe-horned. Once Juliet moved to Guernsey, for example, she had to get an awful lot of notes under her door from the members of the society. And she had to write loads to her friends in lieu of being able to just describe stuff not in a letter. Maybe I would have preferred a mix of standard prose & letters.

Listened to this as an audiobook & I did like having a different reader for each character.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the "letters" device is that it inevitably leads to a lot more "show" than "tell". We can't really pick up Dawsey's feelings for Remy or Juliet for ourselves, through the subtle clues of his behaviour; we only know what Juliet reports to her friends, and then it's in the context of "I think Dawsey might fancy me/Remy, because he did this and said that." Juliet tends to gush, and she has some of the analytical and descriptive tendencies of a teenage girl, especially when it comes to lurve and her feelings.

I guess perhaps my main problem is that it doesn't leave me very much room for interpretation or drawing my own conclusions. Everything is spelt out for me. (Not that that is a characteristic of epistolatory novels only, of course).

Having said all this, the letters from the bitchy lady (gah can't remember her name) are great.

message 6: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Daniel wrote: "I still will never, ever, ever, ever read this. Ever. Ever!"

Methinks the lady doth protest too much...

message 7: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Hey, I prefer not to be called a lady when I'm not wearing my flowered muumuu and string of pearls.

message 8: by Kelly (last edited Sep 25, 2009 09:05AM) (new)

Kelly Oh terribly sorry. I thought the "never ever ever" indicated the string of pearls, punctuated by the petulant stomping foot. :) *flees!*

message 9: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Oh, make no mistake, there was indeed much petulant foot-stomping.

message 10: by Paul (last edited Sep 25, 2009 10:34AM) (new)

Paul Bryant Hi Rose - in regard to being manipulated - I feel this on some level about nearly everything cultural - perhaps that's an overstatement - but sometimes I think there's a kind of novel that's aimed at my type, a kind of movie, a kind of music - to give a British example, take Merchant/Ivory films - I knew people who would always go to every one and always really like them. But they weren't for me. Instead for me there's old Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, the Glimmer Twins of English miserablism. Etc.

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