So, following my daunting experience (melodrama is good for the soul) I figured I’d post a review on a book that made me feel really good. Seriously. It even says so on the cover. ‘When was the last time you read a book that made you feel really good?’ Sounds slightly cocky, but it kind of did hold up its side of the bargain (for me, at least).
“The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society” – besides having an almost ridiculously long title – is a novel in epistolary form (I love those!). It unfolds in letters. The protagonist is one Juliet Ashton, an ex-columnist, who has decided to write a book on the island of Guernsey and the people there, following the end of WWII. She strikes up a correspondence with a group of people on the island – namely a book club the name of which is also the title of this novel.
It’s a heartwarming read, I tell you. I’m not ashamed to say that after I finished I couldn’t resist hugging it to my chest. Juliet is charming and funny and I couldn’t help but chuckle at many of her lines.
“My neighbour Evangeline Smythe is going to have twins in June. She is none too happy about it, so I am going to ask her to give one of them to me.”
“Then the Daily Mirror sponsored an essay contest – five hundred words on ‘What Women Fear Most’. I knew what the Mirror was after, but I’m far more afraid of chickens than I am of men, so I wrote about that. The judges, thrilled at not having to read another word about sex, awarded me first prize.”
“Will Thisbee gave me The Beginner’s Cook Book for Girl Guides. It was just the thing; the writer assumes you know nothing about cookery and gives useful hints: ‘When adding the eggs, break the shells first.’”
“Did you know that Wilkie Collins maintained two separate households with two separate mistresses and two separate sets of children? The organisation difficulties must have been shocking. No wonder he took laudanum.”
Then there are those parts that left me in total agreement:
“I don’t want to be married for just the sake of being married. I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with.”
“It seems to me the less he [Shakespeare] said, the more beauty he made. Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is, ‘The bright day is done, we are for the dark.’ I wish I’d known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, planeload after planeload of them – and come off ships down in the harbour! All I could then of was, Damn them, damn them, over and over again. If I could have thought the words, ‘The bright day is done, we are for the dark,’ I’d have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstances- instead of my heart sinking into my shoes.”
As it is set right after WWII it deals with some pretty serious issues as well. It was a little unexpected in the sense that the opening of the novel is rather light and fluffy, for want of a better word, but as it progressed I found myself in the same shoes as Juliet, starting to care more and more for the Guernsey occupants.
The only downside to the novel is that all the letters – regardless of whether they’re being penned by accomplished author, Juliet Ashton, or a fisherman on Guernsey Island – all have the same tone. There were some differences, I admit, but not enough in my opinion. I think it’s quite a big stumbling block – if the voices had been more distinctive I think the characters would have been even more colourful. However, the writing style does flow and I quite enjoyed it, except for the above-mentioned aspect.
Also, there’s an unexpected romance. Well, it was unexpected for me because I was rooting for another man, but he turned out to be batting for the other team, unfortunately. It’s always the way, isn’t it?
So, what are you waiting for? Go read it. That’s the only way you’ll find out why the book club is named what it is.