I just want to start out by saying that this book is going right to the top of my Favorite-Books-Of-All-Time list, I loved it!
It is 1946 London. The war is finally over and Juliet Ashton is in the midst of her first book tour. She is a journalist and during the war she wrote a cheery newspaper column under the pen name Izzy Bickerstaff. Those columns have been collected into a book and, though it’s selling well, Juliet more than ready to say goodbye to Izzy and start on a new writing project.
While she is casting about for ideas she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer on Guernsey Island in the English Channel. He has found her name and address written in a secondhand book that he owns and asks for her help. Since Guernsey was occupied by the Nazis during the war, they have no bookseller in residence and he is unable to expand his reading. Would she have the name and address of a London bookseller who might be able to help?
The resulting letters they exchange introduce her to other residents of Guernsey, mostly friends of Mr. Adams and fellow members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. One of the residents made up the Society on the spur of the moment one night when several of them were caught out by Nazi soldiers after curfew. And what a blessing it turned out to be, giving them something to think about and reasons to go on during the worst of the deprivation and starvation that the five years of occupation brought.
Eventually Juliet decides on the theme for her next book and goes to Guernsey to start writing and meet her new friends. What she finds when she gets there surprises her and changes her life.
I loved everything about this book. The post WWII England setting, the epistolary form, the realistic characters, the fact that much of it is about books, reading and love of literature. But most of all I loved the writer’s wit and style that had me laughing out loud in places and broke my heart and brought me to tears in others. I read it very quickly and I kept telling myself to slow down because at the rate I was going it would be over far too soon. But I couldn’t. So I’ll just have to read it again and again, like going back to an old friend.
It is a shame that there won’t be any more books by Mary Ann Shaffer, but what a gift she has given us. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will be published on August 5, 2008 by The Dial Press.