Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

"Step back! We have a winner!" Joey Tribbiani's words (however out of context they may be here) never ran truer. I struck gold with this book. When I finished reading it, I could not help thanking God for my mad browsing habit, if I hadn't browsed quite like mad the other day, I would have never stumbled upon this book, would have never fallen in love with the book's title then and there.

Books on WWII never fail to attract me and the more different, the better. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society scores perfect points in this department. Written in epistolary form entirely, TGLAPPPS takes you on a delightful journey to Guernsey Island in the Channel as the silent and invisible guest of Juliet Ashton. Juliet Ashton is a writer living in post-war London; Juliet Ashton like millions of women survived the war; Juliet Ashton will never be able to forget it for as long as she lives, it will shadow her all the days of her life. Juliet Ashton of post-war London is utterly and unquestionably adorable.

Through Juliet, we come to love the brother-sister duo of Sidney and Sophia, we meet and befriend the lovely people of Guernsey, learn about their lives, make friends with Kit, hear stories about Elizabeth McKenna and finally settle down in Guernsey for the rest of our lives. Nobody who has taken this extraordinary journey with Juliet can blame us either, for they will be wandering around the tiny island themselves. You might even meet them for tea at one of the society members' houses.

TGLAPPPS is one of those rare books that completely satisfies the reader. This is a book for the bedside table as the reader will often want to read a letter here or a letter there; such is the quality of this book. Books based on the war have made me weep, cringe in horror, laugh even (with catch 22). But I have always wondered what it must have been like to live the war, to live through it and come out with the ability to smile; what it must have been like for the person next door: the writer, the pig farmer, the squire's wife, the hippy. This book has taught me that; through Juliet and her friends I have lived in 1946 and faced the immediate aftermath of the war, have watched them pick up the threads of their lives; through their memories, I have faced occupation, bombed houses, deceased friends, witnessed extraordinary strength of character, have learnt that not all Germans living in Nazi Germany were "bad".

Buy it, borrow it, please don't steal it but read it, you MUST read it. I can guarantee that you will love it, you will come away with fond memories, know exactly how Guernsey looks at sunset, know how delightfully peaceful it might be to be a pig farmer, how heady it must be to a writer.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a collection of fondly written letters among true kindred souls. Once you have read it, keep it at your bedside, read one or two letters now and then, fondly, like revisiting an old friend and then go to sleep with visions of potato peel pie floating in your head.


Shweta said...

I too loved this book. It's a gem and I have even gifted this book to a few friends. Lovely review

Pavi said...

You'll learn that not all Nazi Germans are "bad"??? Woah!! then this book has got to be pretty much an interesting read:).. Quite a simple review on an intense topic..very intellectually written:) Also, love the new look:) Good one..keep it up:)

Kaushik Chatterjee said...

How on earth could you read books of such diversity and oeuvre at such a frenetic pace and then come up with these lovely, close-to-heart reviews? I know quite a few of my very young friends doing that effortlessly and I gape in awe and yes, you guessed it right, with a shade of indolent envy! Let me assure myself that I’ll read it someday if for nothing else but for this empathetic review!

Vaishnavi said...

@Shweta - Thanks a lot! I agree that this book is indeed a gem, "they don't make 'em like that anymore" :)

@Pavi - Well yes, there are quite a few works like that actually, that makes you see how Germany suffered too. I made a mistake sorry, I shouldn't have written about "Nazi Germans" when I meant Germans living in Nazi Germany. I will change that! Witnesses of War by Nicholas Stargardt will show you just how much Germany suffered because of Nazism. I'll write about that book here one of these days and yes, I like the new look too :)

@Mr.Chatterjee - I am a horribly addicted bookworm I am afraid, I simply cannot NOT read so that way I don't have a choice but I succeed in driving people around me crazy. Thanks, it makes me glad that you like the review but anyone will gush like this about this book I think and I have hardly done it any justice. Thank you very much though, I am happy that you find something worthwhile to read about here :) Do visit again :)

Kals said...

Great review and another reason why I ought to read it fast!

I found your blog just today and it's lovely :)

Whitney said...

What a lovely review! Yet, another reason why I should read this.

bikerguy said...

lovely review :) i have never really thought about reading war related books, but your review is so great that i may consider picking this up :)
simple writing....i like it best this way :)

Vaishnavi said...

@Kals & Whitney - You definitely should read this book, am totally in love with it :)

@Avi - Yep! Do :)

Sathej said...

Wow thats a very passionate review :) All the way along reminds me of Hemingway..war, sights and sounds of peace. Very very inviting..'know exactly how Guernsey looks at sunset' - thats strangely calming and nostalgic ! Looks very much my kind of a book :)


Vaishnavi said...

@Sathej - It definitely is your kind of book! :) You should definitely check it out :)

Priya Iyer said...

I finally got my copy of this book and started reading it too. It resembles 84 Charing Cross Road (a book written in the 70s) quite a bit, but so far, has been a pleasant read. :)

Thank you for suggesting it to me.

Vaishnavi said...

Priya - It is my pleasure absolutely. I can't recommend it highly enough :)