The novel is set in post-war England in 1946, when Juliet Ashton receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey, which forms part of England's Channel Islands. Dawsey starts a correspondence with Juliet, who is a writer herself and in search for the topic of her next book. Dawsey begins to tell Juliet how the residents of Guernsey formed the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to cope with the hostile German Occupation of the Channel Islands during the war. Eventually, more and more members of the society write letters to Juliet; each character telling personal stories during the Occupation and recounting how the book society nurtured their love for reading.
Juliet does become more involved with the lovable characters of the island. She eventually decides to visit Guernsey, as she feels a deep affinity for the members of the society. As Juliet becomes an accepted resident of Guernsey, she forms profound relationships with the society members. She decides to stay on the island and adopt an orphan of Elizabeth, one of the society's founding members.
TGLAPPPS is a love story of sorts. First it's about how people love reading. There are passages in the book that spoke to me as a bibliophile. Some of them are a bit cliche, but any book lover, or bookseller for that matter, would appreciate reading about them.
I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true. [page 10]TGLAPPPS is an easy read. It's perfect for those lazy afternoons when you absolutely have no plans and you just want to stay in bed curled up with a good book. The writing style of Shaffer and Barrows is "breezy"; the novel takes almost no effort to read. You just turn the pages one after another to find out what's in store for Juliet and the members of the book society, which are as diverse in personality as their reading preferences. The authors also manage to throw in a romantic angle between Juliet and Dawsey, something which is definitely inspired by Austen's Pride and Prejudice. (I still haven't read P&P though. I'm forever stuck on page 47.)
I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers -- booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one -- the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it -- along with first dibs on the new books. [page 15]
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society isn't a great novel, but it sure is a good one. It's written in an epistolary style; letters just fly back and forth between the characters. Unfortunately, some of the characters lack a distinct voice, despite the interesting stories they convey in their letters. Nevertheless, I was happy to have read TGLAPPPS.
Several questions though kept running in my mind as I was reading this novel. We live in an age of emails, Facebook, and Twitter, yes? While I love these high-tech communication tools, I kept thinking that we won't be reading any more of the letters of our favorite authors because of them. How would email change the way we find out how our well-loved novelists and writers communicate with their friends and families? Would a compilation of emails have the same effect as those personal letters? Also, haven't you noticed that you see fewer small and independent bookstores? I just love them and the highly personalized service that they provide. Are small bookstores really on their way out?
Read this book if:
- You belong to a book club.
- You love letters.
- You've always wondered how a potato peel pie would taste.