Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

What a lovely, lovely book! Everything I found wanting in the characters of The Lost Symbol, was present in spades in this novel. Every character was purposefully developed and wonderfully unique. The plot was well paced and multi-dimensional. There was a nice balance between the conservation of words and the grace and artistry of the prose.

The novel is set in England at the end of World War II and has the dual focus of a look back at the German occupation of the English Channel island of Guernsey and the personal journey of self-discovery of the central character, Juliet Ashton. Juliet is a young author in London who gets caught up in a correspondence with the members of the title society.

The entire book is told in letters, telegrams, and notes. Shaffer and Barrows execute this style brilliantly, letting each character's narrative style distinguish itself from the others, while still only revealing them bit-by-bit at the same pace at which our heroine gets to know them. Some letters are missing, leaving the reader to guess at their contents from the letters written in reply. The subject matter hops from one topic to another depending on who is writing to whom, simultaneously revealing the story of the past and moving forward the action in the present. The overall effect is that of finding a box of keepsakes in your grandmother's attic and exploring it at your leisure.

It is charming and poignant, touching on difficult topics with the perfect blend of somberness and the lightness of hope. I have read many books on the subject of World War II, but I have never read one that made me smile as much as this one.

(Much thanks to Heidi for the recommendation!)

1 comment:

  1. Woohoo! I'm so glad you loved it!! (And you're welcome!) I bought a print copy while I was visiting home so I could read my favorite parts over and over. But I still want to own the audio because the narrators add even more life to the characters! This book may have to go into my all-time favorite top 20.

    Let's see what else I can recommend to you.... You may have to join so I can see what else you've enjoyed. :-)