The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

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I must admit I thought this book would be a boring read when I first opened it, despite it’s magnificent title. The first page was a letter. So was the second and third and, in fact, flicking through the book I found it comprised entirely of letters to people!

How tiresome, I thought. How terribly lazy. But then I remembered that some of the most beautiful books I had ever read were comprised of letters. Letters do not hinder a plot if they are properly written.

I also learnt a new word in the reading of this book, although not gleaned from the book itself! It is ‘epistolary’, meaning ‘contained in, or carried on by letters’.

This book was captivating. The character development was excellent, and through the letters one could see exactly what everybody thought of each other, and how their relationships developed through the stories of hardship and moments of laughter during the war. Characters who didn’t even exist in the novel, their voices created by other characters, were so vibrant and alive, that it was quite an unfortunate disappointment to find they never made an entrance at all.

The story follows the tales of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a covert group formed  in the Guernsey Islands during the second world war. Books were scarce in Guernsey, and so was food and luxuries, but they never lacked for love. The story is told through the multiple perspectives of the Islanders, the majority of whom had emerged from the war unscathed. The letters are sent to a certain Juliet, a writer herself, who, in undertaking a literary project, found herself drawn into the lives of these islanders. What happens next I will let you find out yourself.

I am so glad I own this book now, it is one I would recommend recommend recommend. It’s sad and sweet and also surprisingly informative.

What I loved most about this story was that it was centred around, and celebrated books in a most familial and cosy way. It is not very often that you will come across a book that fits so perfectly in your hands, that sits so comfortably in your soul, that promises to stay with you forever and ever, it’s words a nostalgic echo through the passages of time. So, that being said, I will end my review with one of my favourite quotes from this classic treasure of a novel:

Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.

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