Kelly'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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did not like it
bookshelves: read-in-2008

** spoiler alert ** This book garners a 1.5 from me. What a painful read.

I won't dwell too long on what makes this book so wrong, but let's start with the problem of how difficult it is for a GOOD writer to develop character via the epistolary form. Now for two mediocre writers, it's even worse. I distinguish no voices among the twelve million uninteresting characters. Second, how about the "plot?" There isn't one, and what is moderately plot-like is so loosely strung that it's impossible and laughable. The woman's boss lets her skip town, not do her work, and then she decides she wants to adopt some kid she's known for a couple of months and then marries one of her subjects? That's unethical and gets people fired in the real world. Granted, it's the 1940s, but, I think that actually makes it less believable. The setting and timing of this story never come together, and descriptions of war are thrown in on the side for added drama.

I should have stayed away when I saw the rave, run-on sentence of a review from Elizabeth Gilbert ( Eat, Pray, Love fame) giving this one glowing reviews. The book is not worth your time or frustration, as you can never really care about the characters or their half-slopped-together miss-mash of a story. Additionally, the language leaves something to be desired when it could have been so much more. The book HAS such potential but never gets anywhere near it. Feckless, really (feckless being the word I kept reading overandoverandover when it wasn't necessary).
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 22, 2008 – Shelved
December 23, 2008 –
0.0% "Decent, though I'm also bias by Elizabeth Gilbert's rave, incoherent, run-on back cover review."
December 23, 2008 –
page 200
43.38% "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....."
December 24, 2008 – Shelved as: read-in-2008

Comments (showing 1-8)

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Janssen Well, makes me glad I took it back to the library unread!

Kelly Janssen wrote: "Well, makes me glad I took it back to the library unread!"

I should have been more wary, but the premise sounded good. I think a good, well-established and experienced writer could take the bones and make it good. You're not missing much. Time for better things, right?

Jessica Your review of Guernsey is SPOT ON! I could not even care about the characters. I was confused by all the characters and couldn't get myself to pay enough attention to keep them all straight. Thanks for a great review!!

Bridget Maybe on another day you'd feel differently. I've started books, put them down, picked them up later, and loved them. I can see how the revolving cast of characters would confuse. Susan and Sophie just about did me in, but once I got past that and got sucked into the plot, I couldn't put this book down.

Diane Your review is right on the money. This is a poorly done book on so many levels.

message 3: by Robyn (last edited Sep 20, 2012 01:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robyn Markow Yes,I thought this book was a bit twee(Brit Slang for Cutesy) in spots. & Elizabeth was a bit too Unrealistically heroic for me @ times & i did get confused at the beginning w/whom was who due to letter format used. However,the story won me over. Sometimes I just want to read a book that's uplifting & it highlighted an event of WW2 that history books have seemed to ignore. Sorry to read about the main author's demise.

Suellen Pellat Mary wrote what I was about to write you. Dawsey was not her subject, Elizabeth and Guernsey were. Juliet keeps on writing Sydney about her writing and how it is going. So she is working when she is there. And yet she is also falling for Kit and Dawsey while working. Doesn't it happen to us all to have a professional activity and go on with our lives?

Katherine I agree with the two comments above.
In addition, I do understand your concern over lack of character growth and of plot, but I have found in my experience of writing, reading, and analyzing texts that the stories that can catch one's interest the most are the ones that defy the supposed rules of writing and storytelling. Even great books such as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings defied, in some ways, the previously set ideals, in those cases concerning larger books for younger readers and the whole concept of high fantasy.
I, and I admit this is ultimately a subjective opinion, found this book to be refreshing.
Very little character development, and even voice in most cases, can be conveyed through letter format. Letters are not real if their sole purpose is to convey voice and development. Some people express very little in letters, but long letters often simply tell various happenings and stories, sometimes humorous, sometimes serious. Any expression of personal growth or insight can become very tedious to a reader who is not intimately familiar with the writer and who doesn't particularly care for their insights, so very often the happenings can convey more than insights...and also leave the reader to bring to the story whatever insights he or she may have.
The idea of plot is a sticky one. Again, I found this story refreshing in its free and light flowing. A rigid plot structure, I grant you, has endured since it was developed in Classical Greece for a reason, but just because there is such a thing as a classical ideal doesn't necessarily mean that anything that does not fit in that ideal is wrong/poorly written. That's a false dichotomy. Even Homer's Odyssey doesn't follow the rigid plot structure (for obvious reasons considering it's an epic poem and the plot structure mentioned above was mainly reserved for the great dramas such as Oedipus Rex), and it has been considered one of the top five greatest epics for centuries. Now, I don't mean to compare this simple, refreshing, light read to the Odyssey, but I do believe that more variety of this sort is of value. The loose plot structure of this novel conveys the loose plot structure of common lives...which the whole book is about: how everyday people with their common lives on a little seemingly insignificant island were affected by a catastrophic war that shook the world and caused so many of those lives to be destroyed.

Well, this comment ended up far longer than I thought it'd be.... I just started thinking and wanted to share this.
I do want to thank you for bringing a colorful variety to the reviews however. Least of all, it made me think. That's one of the beauties of reading: how everyone can have so different and yet so real an experience with an author's expression and then share those experiences with others.

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