8.02.2010

Reviewing "Potato Peel Pie"

We've been home from the beach trip and without company for a week and I've now finished two of my planned beach reads. It has been a delightful way to settle back into the swing of things after vacation. For fun, I even tossed a third book in the mix (The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith) and was reminded what it was like to be able to read for pleasure. In all honesty, I haven't particularly enjoyed my Booking It (self)required reading this year. They were books that were on my list and on my bookshelves, but now that I have forced myself to read them, I understand why they had sat, untouched, for so long. The books I just finished, My Life in France (which I talked about HERE) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, are delights to the reading senses. As I've already given my thoughts on the Julia Child book, I now get to talk about the Potato Peel Pie Society and that makes me happy.


If you haven't heard of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (assisted by her niece, Annie Barrows), then let me tell you about it. I first learned of it during the Booking It updates over at Life as MOM. After reading the first review I was intrigued, but figured that it would be another romance-novel-esqe story and I probably wouldn't like it. After hearing Jessica's review of it, I decided it might be worth a try. I'm so glad I gave it a chance!

One thing I didn't realize (or didn't pay close attention to in the reviews) was the format that author used - you are reading other people's letters (reminds me now of The Jolly Postman books - will have to recommend those one Wednesday!). It's a fascinating and attention-keeping way to write a book, not to mention different. I loved it! Without getting bogged down in reading descriptions of people, you are sucked into the world of Guernsey during the German occupation of WWII (told post-occupation) and before you know it, you are falling for the book's main and sub-characters: Juliet, Sidney, Isola, Dawsey, Eben, Sophie, Mark, Eli, Amelia, Elizabeth, Kit, Christian, Remy, and more.

About mid-way through the book, just when I thought, "Well this is a nice, light-hearted read...", Ms. Shaffer pulled the rug out from under me in a way I never expected. Even with a happy ending, she doesn't go lightly over the heartaches of WWII. Shaffer included the ugliest, darkest sides of the war in the "Potato Peel Pie" story. Although the book is a work of fiction, the war was not - nor were the travesties that occurred in concentration camps and in Nazi-occupied areas. She did an excellent job of incorporating truth and reality with fiction and made-up characters.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it made me want to learn more about the Island of Guernsey and the German occupation during the War. While there were a couple of things I think could have been written differently to tidy-up the story, I would say that Ms. Shaffer did an excellent job on her first (and only) novel. I was sorry to read that she passed away before it was published as I would like to have read more of her work. She had a gift for creating memorable, like-able characters and weaving an idea into a beautiful story. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a very quick read (I did it in two days - with an interruption - but could have read it in one if I had the time) and I was sorry to see it end. Head to your local library or purchase a copy (new or used) from Amazon and then tell me what you think of it! For more suggestions and book reviews, check out the August Booking It post over at Life as MOM.

Happy Reading!


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4 comments:

  1. This is one of the books that a librarian acquaintance recommended when I asked for her suggestions when I was writing an article about summer reading for moms who love to read. I haven't read it, but because of that and your review here, I'd like to.

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  2. I really enjoyed it too. For mostly the same reasons! Loved the format. The letters allow you to get to know characters quickly and leave just enough holes to let your imagination run wild. Plus, I loved that it was a love story without being a conventional one. I was pleasantly surprised by the weight of the topics covered but never felt bogged down, as can often happen with WWII stories. On the whole, it was an enjoyable read.

    But 2 days! Wowzers, you're a speed reader!! I'm just NOT that fast.

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  3. Loved it! I had a bad cough and was having trouble sleeping anyway so I just stayed up one night and read the whole thing.

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  4. That book definitely is at the top of my list for the year. I never caught on that the author died before it was published. My copy said that her niece finished it for her. That is sad...

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