The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a charming novel set on the island of Guernsey post WWII. The novel is unique in that it is told completely in letters (and the occasional telegram); through the letters, the authors provide insight to the psyche of the islanders as they rebuild their lives following the oppression of the German Occupation. They cope with loss and try to make sense of the many injuries they and the Island suffered at the hands of the Germans.
Juliet Ashton is a writer living in London when she receives a letter from Dawsey, a Guernsey native who has received a book she once owned and wants to learn more about its author. Her exchange with Dawsey piques Juliet's interest in the Island and she makes her way there to write a book about the German occupation of the Island during WWII. Over the course of her stay on the Island, she learns of the indecencies suffered by the Island residents during Occupation - with the German soldiers controlling access to food and other basics, some residents befriended soldiers and turned in neighbors in order to gain privileges from the Germans. They put their young children on boats to England to protect them during the Occupation and then agonized about their whereabouts and wondered when or if they would ever see them again.
I was so charmed by this book - it took time to get used to the epistolary style and to keep track of the characters but once I did I enjoyed the quiet stories of each of the islanders. The authors did an excellent job of mixing the every day with the dark days of the occupation. Interestingly, I read one review of this book in which a commenter spoke of how much she disliked the book and felt the authors had made light of a very serious time in British history during which many had suffered. I must say I disagree - I don't think the authors made light of what Guernsey endured during the War at all- in fact, I found their war stories even more poignant interspersed as they were between the eccentricities of the island's residents. Most of all, however, I was inspired by the triumph of the human spirit evidenced by each of the residents as they came to terms with what they had endured during the war and moved on with life. My one regret is that I waited so long to read this favorite!
I read many great reviews of this book but the one that inspired me to take the book off the shelf and read it was this one by Cornflower Books.