Ruth'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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Aug 19, 2008

it was ok
Read in August, 2008

I won an ARC of this book either from the NYer or from the publisher. I forget which, as it's been sitting around for a while.

This epistolary novel is something I should have loved. I generally like novels in letters, it’s almost like peering into lighted windows at night as you pass, sewing the bits of life seen there into a coherent whole.

It’s fun, this book, in its witty comments, sort of the way I wish I could talk all the time. Yet, about halfway through it began to pale. Everybody in the book writes witty letters, but they are all witty in much the same way. The authors have taken pains to write clearly different characters, but their manner of writing letters boils them down to the same soup.

I also began to tire of all these characters who are characters. As in, “Isn’t he a character?" Just too many odd bits of spice milling around.

Add to that, the unsatisfactory conclusion, where everything is tied up in the nice pink ribbon of The Happy Ending. My disbelief refused to be suspended.

Still, if you enjoy a bon mot as much as I do, it’s a fun, if frothy, read.
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02/11/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Ruth I like Charing Cross a lot, too, Ginny. And I thought of it while reading Guernsey.


Lisa Vegan I have Guernsey on reserve at the library and I still want to read it. 84, Charing Cross Road is a wonderful book! Seeing this thread, I'm thinking about rereading it; I haven't read it for decades.


Jennifer Ruth, your review is exact summation of how I felt about this book. I was a bit dismayed when I finished the book and concluded that it truly was a "fun, frothy, read." How can the authors have turned the horrors of the Occupation into mind candy? I felt insulted.


Ruth How can the authors have turned the horrors of the Occupation into mind candy?

Much the way I felt about WWII and Hogan's Heroes!!


message 5: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva Leger Hi Ruth- thanks for you review. I just got this book (haven't started it yet) and Monica directed me over here to read this. I read another review that said something similar to the characters sounding the same.
:)


Ruth Hi Eva. Let us know what you think.


message 7: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva Leger I will! I hope to get to it soon after seeing all the different reviews and comments on here! :)


Ruth Rosie, I didn't really dislike it, I just couldn't work up much enthusiasm for it. My husband was in Norway under the Nazi occupation. It wasn't fun and games. I felt that this book was way too rosy in its outlook.


Irisjade I'm barely into the book and not loving it, but I completely agee with you. The characaters all have different stories, backgrounds, and 'supposed' personalities, but you're right; they all seem to be incredibly talented, witty writers and in the same way. I'm working on a book written in letters, and I knew how crucial it was to make a difference in the writing style since there are DIFFERENT CHARACTERS. It's really bothering me how you can very much tell that it's a fiction work, based on how it sounds like just an author making up characters and putting their name on her writing. I don't know if I can finish it. And yes, the many different characters are hard to keep up with, even if they do all seem to be one in the same...And your last message about the book being too rosy in it's outlook...I also completely agree with that. I read a lot of Holocaust/German takeover type books and none have the smiling "well it's over now" style that this book has. I'm just used to reading about the stuggles and horrible things the victims went through in the Holocaust, even if it wasn't just the Jewish. This book is peeving me off a bit.


Claudia I agree with this review. I didn't really dislike this book all that much; to me it just felt like it was lacking something.


Marsia I enjoyed much of Guernsey Literary but was disappointed by the handling of parts, particularly the romance angle. Much of it, including the ending, seemed obligatory, too obviously guided by the hand of a publisher wanting to sell books rather than by a writer wanting to depict truth.

I was not, however, distracted by what some readers saw as a lack of variety in characters's voices or letter-writing style, and I thought the book did quite a respectable job of capturing the WWII-era sense of humor. I found it perfectly appropriate to a story set in 1946, when quick wit was valued and practiced.


To Irisjade:

Read Dangerous Liaisons (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), the epistolary novel by Frenchman Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (first published in 1782). The story has been filmed at least twice (see Wikipedia for details). The way this author created a group of living, breathing characters of various genders and ages is impressive, absolutely brilliant, and a fine model for anyone wishing to write a novel told through letters. If I hadn't read it for myself (it's available in paperback), I never would've believed that an eighteenth-century work could be so riveting and exciting--but it is--and full of social and sexual intrigue.



Sheila I agree that the letters started to sound the same as if written by the same person. But in the end I thought it was a good story. I like your honest review.


Karen It's definitely a frothy read to me! And actually, I quit it when I read till the middle... I might start it all over again in the future, just to see if I would have different feelings about it.


Ellie Good review! I started out liking this book. The celebration of books, the description of how the Society began, and witnessing the different characters become fixated on their favorite works of literature was fun. Things went downhill from there. Without giving away much to people who haven't read it, there were glaring anachronisms. Would a woman in the 1940s really "pop the question?" Would a man come out of the closet? I'm assuming these parts were written by the niece after her aunt died. The book lost its credibility for me in the end.


message 15: by Jude (new)

Jude Goodreads at its best. Just saw this blurbed in a local review, came here & feel confident about passing. Not because I know its bad, but I can tell from your voices it ain't for me ;-)!


Cadiva I'm not sure I'd describe it as a happy ending, there were certainly some bitter sweet moments included.


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