An unlikely breakthrough book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society rose quickly through the ranks to become one of the top book club reads in the US. Unlikely, because first off, it’s a story told through letters-not always a winnable formula. Second, it centers on the redemptive power of books, again, not the most gripping of themes (except for devout book lovers).
Yet GLPPPS hit the bestseller charts not long after its release…and has stayed there for months on end. Why? Because it contains an engrossing account of one of history’s darkest periods, told with a mixture of charm, sincerity and quirky humor by an intriguing cast of characters.
The story revolves around the five-year Nazi occupation of the Channel Island and a group of islanders who start a book club-first as an improvised excuse to get around a curfew-but later as a full-blown communal discussion of books and ideas. The group shares meager desserts (meager due to limited supplies on the island) and what evolves into a genuine love of reading, even for those who had never before read a book.
It is shortly after the war has ended that the novel begins. Juliet Ashton, aLondon newspaper columnist, receives a letter from one of the society’s members, Dawsey Adams, who had found her name penciled into the cover of a second-hand book he’s reading. He wants to know if Juliet can recommend other works by Charles Lamb, the book’s 18th century author. Thus begins the rich correspondence, with Dawsey and the other members of the literary society, that make up this work.
Their letters and telegrams create a vivid account of the war as experienced by the residents of Guernsey—the cruelty of some of the German occupiers, the bravery of the many of the Islanders, the horrors of concentration camps, and the powerful role that books played in their lives. The writers themselves, an eccentric and delightful cast of characters, spring to life as they reveal their most inner secrets to Juliet, often without knowing they do so. They eventually draw Juliet into a community that will change her life in ways she never expected.
This is a heartwarming, and at times heartbreaking, novel told through a myriad of wonderful, eccentric voices. It’s a winner for solo readers and is sure to spark lively discussions for any book club.
About the Author
Molly Lundquist is owner of LitLovers, an online resource for book clubs and solo readers. LitLovers brings together Molly’s life-long love of reading, writing, and teaching. The website includes a large list of in-depth reading guides, book recommendations and reviews, free online literature courses, international book club recipes, and plenty of “how-to” tips for book clubs, including tips for kids