Monday, January 10, 2011

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Barrows, Annie (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)

My mother-in-law gave me this book to read, and I groaned inwardly. Really? A book with that title? These are things I usually stay away from with a 14-ft. pole. Often they're ultra-cutesy, chick-lit extraordinaire. I'm here to tell you that is definitely not the case here.

I'm not sure what to compare it to exactly as it seems to fit in a category by itself. It is historically accurate, but not an historical novel. It is a series of letters, but not a biography. It is quite amusing at times, but not a joke book. OK, here's what it is: a novel set directly after WWII as Britain is shaking off the dust and rebuilding itself, with an authoress as protagonist looking for her next book to write. A random letter sets many things in motion that eventually lead her to the Channel Islands where she learns how the war affected the inhabitants.

That sounds horribly dry. Did I mention it's really funny in parts? You learn a great deal about Guernsey and the horrible things the people there had to endure, so that's not amusing in the slightest. So, what makes it so engaging is how Shaffer and Barrows can leap from the extremely funny to the downright tragic in the space of a page or two. Similarly surprising is how the authors are able to draw such rich characters via a series of letters, written one to the other.

I dare you not to read it in one sitting, actually. It's that engrossing.

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