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Bibliophilic Book Challenge: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I went on a reading spree over the weekend and finished three books, all of which I started and read from cover to cover with only short breaks. One was the Katie MacAlister book I quoted from in the previous post, which turned out to be good, mindless fun, full of steamy sex, violence and hot vampires, and another was a Regency romance by Loretta Chase, Viscount Vagabond, which I enjoyed despite, or perhaps because of, the improbable plot. The last was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society , which makes it 7 books I have finished in the Bibliophilic Book challenge. Not only is it about a book club, but each member of the club has his or her favourite book or author, which they frequently mention.

Year published: 2008
Genre: Novel, epistolatory
Setting & time: London and Guernsey, Britain, 1946

Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, Dawsey Adams, telling her about a book he owns that was once in her possession and sparking her curiosity with a mention of the strangely named book club the book draws its title from. This is the beginning of a series of letters between Juliet and the members of the book club that, little by little, reveal details of the German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II, and especially that of one very special young woman. Juliet ends up visiting her friends in Guernsey, which changes several of their lives forever.

I was ready to hate The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because I have a suspicion of books with long and/or cutesy titles. I freely admit that it’s a completely irrational suspicion, because they have sometimes turned out to be fine reads despite the poor choice of title, which doesn’t stop me from deploring someone’s title choices (e.g. Sex, Lies, and Vampires).

However, in this case it could have been worse. The choice of title could have followed directly in the footsteps of all those annoying “book club” titles that sprouted like mushrooms in the wake of The Jane Austen Book Club, like The Book Club (three that I know of), The Used Women's Book Club, The Romance Readers' Book Club, The Bronxville Book Club, The Mother-Daughter Book Club and even No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club (which I own and intend to read despite the cringingly bad title).

The reason I decided to read it (despite the title) was that several members of my online book group loved this book, and since I have learned to trust their judgment, I picked it up and took it home with me from the library on Friday. I did not regret my decision.

This is a delightful little gem of an epistolatory novel. The letters, going between a number of people but with Juliet Ashton as the central character, gradually tell two stories, one about the occupation of Guernsey and one about Juliet and the book club members. These people are a delightfully mixed bag of characters who originally got together for a secret dinner during the German occupation and ended up forming a book-club and forging lasting friendships through it. The ending is a little too inevitable and cute for my taste, but other than that, I enjoyed it. 3+ stars.


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