Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
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!)