Dear Sidney, Susan Scott is a wonder.
–Mary Ann Shaffer - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - c.2008
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Goodreads
This is one of those books that I’ve been aware of for a while. The name does sort of stick out. I know it was very popular as a book club selection when it first came out, but I never actually read it. I’ll be honest, the title did put me off. So I’m very glad that it was chosen as a read for my book club as I doubt I would have read it otherwise, and then I’d be missing out. Because this is a really great read.
It is an epistolary novel, told in letters between Juliet and various people, her publisher, her childhood friend, and a whole host of people from Guernsey who formed the literary society of the book’s title. And it is a wonderful read. I’ll admit that I have a terrible habit of skipping headers, whether that be a chapter title or, in this case, the vital details that reveal who wrote the letter, I just can’t help myself. So at the start I was a bit “who’s saying this now?” but once I got a few pages in that didn’t bother me anymore, even when I continued to stupidly skip that information I could figure out pretty quickly from the context who was writing and who they were writing to. Plus I would often flick back to double check. But that’s my bad habit, I’m sure other people don’t do this with books.
The letters are all about books and reading, and war and occupation. Nazi Germany occupied Guernsey during the second world war and the people in the literary society tell Juliet their stories in their letters. But really it is a book all about people. It brushes on the terrible things that they do, and can have happen, but most of it is focused on the good that people do and the relationships they form, often in very trying and difficult situations. How relationships can help in the darkest times, but also how books can help. If you enjoy books where the characters have a love of reading then this is certainly one for you.
As I said, it certainly touches on some terrible things, this is a story set during war after all, and occupation is always a terrible things, plus this was Nazi Germany so there is an added level of horror there. But really it is a great read and I’d recommend it to everyone.
Also I really liked the character of Juliet. She’s smart and funny and always entertaining, even when she makes mistakes, because, lets face it, everyone does. I also thought that the book did a really good job of having her tell a lot of the story without her actually being right about a lot of things.