Book Review: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”

Hardcover edition; Dial Press 2008. 288 pages.

Hardcover edition; Dial Press 2008.
288 pages.

Sorry it’s been a while since my last review. Our best friends got married on Sunday so we had lots of pre-wedding events and then the big weekend itself! It was beautiful and we’re so happy for them!!!

Guernsey was my most recent commuting companion and was a fun audiobook because it’s an epistolary novel with many secondary characters, so there were multiple readers who each used different voices for each individual character’s letters. However, despite my enjoyment of the listening experience itself due to the talented readers, I really did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. The basic premise, involving a young (32 years old, as she reminded us often) writer in London after the war struggling to come up with the idea for her next novel, as she begins to correspond with some folks in Guernsey after one of them finds her name and address in his favorite book, was super intriguing, and I’ve wanted to read this for a while, but it fell totally flat.

In my opinion, this novel had amazing potential to address a very serious and interesting topic, the occupation of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands by the Germans during WWII, which I personally didn’t know much about in the larger scheme of WWII history. However, the wartime experience gets lost in what I found to be a very predictable story with unlikable characters. I knew just about everything that was going to happen to Juliet and the others before it did, and found the entire story and much of the characterization to be extremely trite, contrived, and rather boring. EVERYONE was quirky. Elizabeth was just TOO perfect. I especially hated Juliet pretty much from the very beginning, as she consistently complained and whined about everything that happened to her; my hatred culminated when she demonstrated jealousy of another character for always managing to look so stylish, even when she knew that this character was recently released from hospice after surviving as a prisoner in a CONCENTRATION CAMP. REALLY, JULIET?!?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????

Two stars for some absolutely delightful passages about books, bookstores, and book lovers, as well as the descriptions of my favorite character, Ariel the goat. Also, please keep in mind that I know many people (yes, including my mom) who really enjoyed this book, and it has excellent ratings on Goodreads, so I am definitely in the minority, but I can’t in good conscience recommend it.

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