How could I resist a book with such an unusual title set on an island about which I know nothing (cows, right?)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a charming novel of 1946 London and Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. London based writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a Guernsey resident asking for a book recommendation. Juliet, who appears to know as little about Guernsey as I, is intrigued enough to write back. Thus begins a formidable exchange of letters with the Guernsey locals, most of whom are members of the Literary Society.
The Islanders are not naturally bookish. The Literary Society was founded on the spur of the moment to explain a curfew violation to the Germans who occupied the island during most of the war. But once the Literary Society was established, the residents embrace the concept with enthusiasm. Farmers read Charles Lamb, the lady with the wandering eye is a Bronte fan, the stone mason likes Shakespeare, and a former valet reads The Letters of Seneca—exclusively.
The book is a bit clichéd. Juliet is witty and self deprecating, her gay editor amusing, her rich American boyfriend suitably dense, and the Guernsey natives quaintly rural. But the history of the German occupation is poignant, and a novel about books and reading is always a pleasure. A gentle read.
This ECW Classic Review was originally published in NFocus magazine.