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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
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message 1: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments A group of us are planning to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in August for the monthly challenge. Please feel free to join the discussion here.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments Thanks for taking charge of this, Kristie. I can't wait to get started.


message 3: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments You're welcome, Tricia. Glad you're joining us.


message 4: by Kristie, Moderator (last edited Aug 09, 2018 05:38AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments I started this one (barely). I forgot that it was an epistolary. I don't generally enjoy this style of writing. I feel that it is harder to get lost in the story. I didn't get far yesterday because I wasn't completely 'into it' yet. I hope to make a little more progress today. I do have the audio, so I don't think that helps with this style of story. My original goal was to read it quickly and be done before the toppler on Saturday, but Im not sure that's going to be a possibility for me. We'll see. Maybe I'll get caught up in it one of these times.

Has anyone else started? What are your initial thoughts?


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments It's on the top of my stack. I was hoping to finish The Gabriel Hounds for the group read before I started this one, but it's going really slow for me. Ah well, I've been known to have several things going at once before; so I'll go ahead and start it today. I'll come back later tonight with some initial thoughts, but I agree with Kristie that getting caught up in a story written in this style can be a challenge. We'll see how it goes.


Clive Matthews | 225 comments I read for about 30 minutes on Wednesday. I'd agree that it's not the easiest form of writing to become engrossed in. My other issue with it is that I always feel intrusive as a reader when a story is based around letters, journal/diary entries etc. I know that's a bit silly as it's just a technique employed by the author but it doesn't feel the same as reading a typical novel.

The writing style of the letters certainly feels evocative of the typical way that period of history is reflected (at least here in the UK) which helps it feel realistic but I've no idea where the story is heading yet.

Still, it's early doors, hopefully it begins to grab my attention in the coming days.


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments So I didn't make it back last night. My daughter is getting ready to start playing in a band, and she's chosen the saxophone as her instrument. We picked it up last night, and after that, there wasn't much room for concentrating on anything. Love her enthusiasm but I feel sorry for our neighbors.

Anyway, I'm only about 20 pages in, but I agree the letters are making the reading a bit challenging. I think it's tough to introduce characters like this. The letter writers have common history and know the people they're writing about; as readers, I feel like we're playing catch up.

Letter from Susan Scott on Jan. 25, 1946
(view spoiler)


message 8: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments Tricia re your spoiler: I agree. That was the best letter yet, as it's a scene you can picture. (view spoiler)


Clive Matthews | 225 comments I hadn't considered the fact that letters often imply prior relationships between people and that this probably contributes to the difficulty in 'getting into' stories written using them.

You're right of course and it's backed up by the fact that the first time I felt my interest being grabbed was by the letter from Guernsey asking for details about Charles Lamb (ie the first letter without any prior relationship!).


message 10: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments Yes, Clive. I like that you see that relationship from the start. I'm only to page 31, but while reading I find myself thinking about how different people and their relationships were back then. I find it interesting how they made connections.

(view spoiler)


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments Speaking of Charles Lamb, he was quite the character. I knew of him because I've read his Tales from Shakespeare, but I didn't know any of the details of his life. Here's a biography of him from the Charles Lamb Society: http://www.charleslambsociety.com/c&a.... Plus, as all of his writing is from the early 19th century, it's in the public domain. So we could go look up these essays and letters and find out what all the fuss is about if we want to.


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments Did you all do the toppler today? I knew my day was crammed with stuff, and I wouldn't have time to participate, but I did get a little more read in Guernsey. I think I'm up to page 60 now.

Letters of recommendation:
Juliet is so smart. (view spoiler)

Quote from the letter from Isola to Juliet p. 54:
"Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books." What do you guys think? Is that true? I think to a certain extent it is. When I was younger, I read a lot of cozy mysteries and cheesy romance novels, and the writing was often lacking. I didn't notice it, though, until I started reading some more talented author's works. I do still read cozies from time to time, but I am more aware of the quality than I used to be. And bad romance novels? Just forget it. LOL Totally over that phase.

I have to say, Guernsey is starting to grow on me.


message 13: by Kristie, Moderator (last edited Aug 11, 2018 07:01PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments I am working on the toppler, so put this one aside for a bit. That is an interesting quote. I think it depends what you consider a "good book". I think if it means books that are good to you, then it's true. If it means higher quality literature, then I don't think so.

I've read plenty of books that are award winners and found them boring or quality literature that doesn't grab me even though the writing is eloquent. I really enjoy thrillers which aren't exactly literature, but are engaging so the writing is good to me even if they're not eloquent or award winning. The same goes for classics; I don't tend to enjoy them even though they've stood the test of time.

So, I guess if a good book is one you enjoy, then yes, you have less tolerance for poorly written books that don't engage you. But, if we're saying good books means high quality literature, then not so much. I think different people enjoy different things, so it's hard to say what is a good book by definition.

Of course, I haven't quite gotten to that part yet, so I'm taking the quote out of context.


Clive Matthews | 225 comments I'd agree with Kristie regarding the quote. When I read it I thought I don't agree with that at all but if you take it as a good book being one that you enjoy then I can get onboard a bit more with it. Whilst I generally try and spend my time reading books that have been well reviewed or that I know are well written there is always a time and a place for a trashy thriller for example. The type that you almost feel dirty reading but are definitely an occasional guilty pleasure.

I'm about halfway through the book now. I'm still struggling to really get into it and I'm sure the style is adding to this. It feels as though we are hearing about the characters interacting rather than experiencing it and I feel as though I'm on the outside rather than a part of it.

It's all very pleasant but not very gripping and I'm still struggling to see where the story is going. (view spoiler)


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments You guys are both right, I think, about the quote and how it could be taken as a good book being one you enjoyed rather than one that's considered quality.

Clive, I agree that it does feel like we're outsiders looking in on action that other people experienced and that it's a bit of a disconnect. I just discovered that there is a film version of this available on Netflix, and I'm kind of interested to see how they manage it. I want to finish the book before I watch it, but I'm wondering if the movie might help us feel more a part of things. Certainly it can't be told completely from letters?

Elizabeth:
(view spoiler)

Letter from Clovis to Juliet.
(view spoiler)


Clive Matthews | 225 comments My worry for Elizabeth is that she was sent to a work camp rather than a prison. The likelihood of a return from them would be much lower and given the isolation that those from Guernsey have described they would be unlikely to know of their existence.

I've just realised that what I actually want to be reading is the book that Juliet is proposing to write!


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments Yes, I want to read that as well.

I really thought that this far into the book, the problem I was having with connecting with the characters might have resolved itself. I'm still finding it jarring, though, when letters mention some shared history which I'm not clued in on. It's like when you're with two people who speak a second language, and they speak it around you knowing that you can't understand.

The letters from Guernsey aren't bad though because we're seeing the beginning of the relationships developing between Juliet and the members of the literary society. I feel much more connected with that part of the story than with Juliet's personal life.


message 18: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments I find that the letters that don't involve Juliet take me out of the story for a bit. I need to think of who they are in relation to Juliet, then why they'd be writing to each other. Then, I can go back to what's actually being said. In general, I am liking it well enough, but not loving it.

I'm at Dawsey to Juliet 15th April 1946 - my names are alluding me just now, so you'll have to bear with me. (view spoiler)

I had more to say, but I started writing this comment an hour and a half ago and by the time I was able to get back to it I had completely forgotten.... ah, the joys of family.


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments Haha Kristie, I know how that goes. I'm up to July 1. (view spoiler)


message 20: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments I finally remembered what I wanted to say! lol (view spoiler)


message 21: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments Oh my gosh the letter from an animal letter was so sad. Also, the next letter by sally. It seems the letters are getting more serious now.


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments I stayed up way too late the night before last and finished this. I ended up really liking it. I feel like the second part of the book (view spoiler) was much more readable and relatable than the first part.

The ending:
(view spoiler)


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments Yes, the animal letter brought up a point I never even considered. Those poor pets and the poor people who either had to leave them behind or sit by while they were destroyed. I can't imagine.


message 24: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments Tricia, can you imagine (view spoiler)

I can’t read your spoilers just yet, as I’m in the app, but I look forward to reading them this evening.


message 25: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments The story of Elizabeth!! 😩


Renee (elenarenee) | 1633 comments I surprised myself. I liked the letters. I usually prefer consecutive narratives. I get tired of the stop and start of so many books. I think it was the fun of again reading actual letters.

Written communication now seems to be either a mass generated Christmas letter or a text filled with abreviations.

tie wrote: "I started this one (barely). I forgot that it was an epistolary. I don't generally enjoy this style of writing. I feel that it is harder to get lost in the story. I didn't get far yesterday because..."


message 27: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments I finished yesterday and ended up enjoying it too. I didn’t love it, but I thought it was good. Hopefully this evening I’ll be able to get on my laptop to read the spoilers!


Clive Matthews | 225 comments I finished up yesterday too. I never really found myself getting into it to be honest. I found reading about Guernsey through the letters when she was actually there to be very odd. Perhaps it's because the idea of writing to each other so often is such an alien concept now but I didn't really find it to be realistic as an approach. The ending of the book also seemed to happen in the blink of an eye, it felt a little rushed to me.


message 29: by Kristie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristie | 14192 comments I liked the way the story ended, but agree it happened very quickly. It felt a bit abrupt.

However, (view spoiler)


Tricia (triciareadsitall) | 814 comments Kristie wrote: "Tricia, can you imagine [spoilers removed]

I can’t read your spoilers just yet, as I’m in the app, but I look forward to reading them this evening."


No, It would be absolutely horrible. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about.


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