Friday, October 7, 2016

Book review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I am a big fan of comfort reading. I tend to re-read books that I love many times over the years, because even if I remember the broad strokes of the plot or the characters, there's always something new to discover and remember with every reading. This book? This is one that probably has, if not the most re-reads, at least in the top 5, in my library.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of the first epistolary books I ever read. The entire story is told in letters and journals, which as a writer, is always fascinating to me - how can an author fit so much about a character into a simple letter? The fact that the book is also historical fiction, taking place not long after the end of the Second World War, helped to attract my attention as well.

The main theme is the love of the written word. The main character is an author who wrote columns for the newspaper during the war, and is now trying to find the best idea she can for a book. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a man on Guernsey Island, who had purchased one of the books she had had in her library from a second-hand bookshop, and was writing to see if she knew of any other books by the same author. It leads to a discussion about reading, writing, and the importance of not only the written word, but also the ties of friendship and family, during the worst that life has to offer.

There's a bit of history that's rarely told in the US in this book - the occupation by the Germans of the Channel Islands. By hearing the voices of the people who lived through the occupation, the authors are able to give a good amount of detail to what happened, without coming across like a textbook. Knowing that it's in the past for them, but still building who they are in the present, is a gift for the reader to unwrap with each letter.

The audiobook version has multiple actors, which make the letters separate and distinct in ways that reading them can't quite get across. This is a book that I can honestly say I wholeheartedly love, and I recommend it to pretty much everyone.