Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Composed almost completely of correspondence through letters and telegrams, this book takes you back to very post-war England (I mean, nearly right after D-Day) when the country is in the midst of beginning to recover, dig through the rubble, and decide what to do with the various nightmares and scars it has suffered throughout the years.  Herein one captivating writer who had heretofore managed to lighten the hearts of her public during World War II is now at a loss for a subject.  Then she happens across the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

This is beautiful book.  Until now, I was not aware that such charm and horror could coexist.  The book's two authors, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, skillfully intertwine the life of Juliet Ashton, the quirky writer, with the lives of her friends both old and new.  When my book club chose this book, to me it seemed like a pleasant little read, but do not let the cover mislead you.

Among the letters describing the characters' enchanting daily lives along with their love for literature are descriptions of what was suffered by these same characters during the German Occupation of the Channel Islands as well as circumstances in concentration camps and the like.  Throughout the book, I came to be encouraged and inspired by the strength of many of these people to be able to retain their dignity and even kindness.  If it seems like my analysis is too sweet, it is only that I came away with a love for the characters, which by my account makes for a good book.

(I fear I may not make for a very interesting critic.  I hope, in time, to be able to read some truly terrible books during my literary explorations if only to provide a truly scathing and biting criticism that will be sure to make me seem much more intellectual.)

Until then, if you want to laugh and to be inspired and if you would like to realize that your problems are not terrible enough to make you the cynic you probably are -- in other words, a little perspective -- pick up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and then let me know what you think.

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