My sister and I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows at the same time this summer. We both enjoyed it, although we both found some aspects of it a bit disappointing. We both answered the same questions for this review. It turns out we thought similar things!
Note that there may be some “spoilers.” I’ve tried to note where.
What were your first impressions?
Rebecca: I wasn’t crazy about the letters format at first. I think I would have preferred to jump right in to a story. But I had enjoyed Ella Minnow Pea (reviewed here) so I thought I’d persevere. I loved the emphasis on books from the start.
Jenny: I was intrigued by the title, which made me pick it up. My first impressions were that pen and ink correspondence is a lost art. The formality of writing a letter, and using formal and respectful language in a letter made me wish for simpler, more respectful times. I enjoyed the letter-writing format.
What did you like most?
Rebecca: I loved learning about Guernsey, and I loved the book talk. I didn’t know anything about the Channel Islands (did I even know they exist?) and I especially didn’t know much about World War II on the home front, so it was an educational experience. Also, there were so many great quotes about books and the influence in our lives. It was inspiring to me. Now I want to find a collection of Charles Lamb’s poetry and Seneca’s writings. Sample quote about book talk: “That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” (quote found on Bermudaonion’s review. I seriously couldn’t find it again in the book!)
Jenny: The book also showed me that face to face friendship, hard work, sacrifice, and social etiquette were also lost arts. I enjoyed that the book was witty and light while dealing with a heavy subject.
What didn’t you like?
Rebecca: I felt the tone shifted in the second part of the book. It became more action driven, and I missed talk about books as a survival mechanism. I also didn’t feel like I got to know any of the characters really well as it went on; while the letter format made it interesting, it was hard to get to know the people. Finally, every letter sounded the same: I wasn’t convinced that different people were writing them.
Jenny: While I enjoyed the letter writing format, it became clear that each “writer” seemed to have the same writing style and voice, namely Juliet’s (because they were all written by the book authors)
What character did you like best?
Rebecca: My favorite character was, by far, Elizabeth McKenna, who everyone talked about. She never appeared in the book herself, but her presence was well known!
Jenny: Of course, Elizabeth McKenna. Ultimately, the book shows how the lives of several dozen seemingly unconnected people were all affected by a phantom woman, whose mystery unfolds into a beautiful account of what it means to march by the beat of your own drum, but to make a friend at any turn—Elizabeth McKenna is loyal, inventive, trusting and trustworthy; memorable. She showed us how to look past labels and social prescriptions.
What did you think of the ending? *SPOILERS*
Rebecca: I thought it was a nice, happy ending, but I totally didn’t see it coming for most of the book. The romance wasn’t very believable to me at all. In fact, for most of the book, I thought the eventual love interest was an old man!
Jenny: While I liked the twist of Jane Austen, I was disappointed that the relationship between Juliet and Dawsey was not more foreshadowed. There were so many characters to remember that I didn’t think to remember Dawsey and found myself picturing him as a lonely, shy old man, as opposed to a handsome and loveable suitor. There was not enough development of their relationship.
Would you recommend TGLPPPS?
Rebecca: Yes, I’d recommend it. It wasn’t my favorite book by a long shot, but it was a comfortable and fun read. I felt I learned something all while I was being entertained.
Jenny: I would recommend it as a frivolous light read and for its compelling suggestions of WWII, but not as deep, inventive classic fiction.
Links of Interest:
- You can find a recipe for Potato Peel Pie here. It looks pretty nasty.
- Random House has also made a list of the books mentioned in GLPPPS.
Other Reviews: (Note: I’ve only added the first ten links found; there are hundreds! If you’ve reviewed TGLPPPS, please leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.)