In its most simple definition, a book club is comprised of a group of people drawn together to read. The members can share their interpretations and opinions; food and drinks can be shared; life experiences can be drawn from the words or meanings of the books. The members are different and united by their common interest of reading – much like our book club of people from all over the world!
But what if a book club could do more than bring people together for reading?
Grab yourself a cup of tea and a comfy seat, for we are about to dive into our September Book Club selection: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
Juliet Ashton is an author living in London. It is 1946, and the country is rebuilding and recovering after World War II. She wrote under the pseudonym “Izzy Bickerstaff” during the war, and her writing was an escape from the war for readers and herself. Now she is tasked by her good friend and editor Sidney with a book tour and to write her next book, despite her lack of inspiration and her discomfort in the wake of war.
It is during this time that she receives a letter from a stranger, Mr. Dawsey Adams.
Dawsey had in his possession a book of Juliet’s by Charles Lamb; her name was written inside the cover. He writes to ask her more about the author and to inquire of a bookseller in London who could send him more books. He writes of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a group formed during the war. Juliet sends the books herself along with a letter to Dawsey inquiring of this society.
Why was the group given this name? Where is Guernsey? What is a Potato Peel Pie?
These letters begin a correspondence between Juliet, Dawsey, and several others either in the society or living in Guernsey. The book is actually written as letters back and forth between characters! Our members struggled with the format initially but grew to enjoy it.
As Jen said, “I think it did a great job of providing the perspectives of each character. I don’t think the story could have been told entirely from Juliet’s perspective.”
The letters give us insight into the mind and experience of every character.
We read with Juliet about the founding of the society: a quick cover for a broken curfew and a secret dinner of roast pig created by Elizabeth, the founder of the society. We learn from Dawsey and the others about the German occupation of the Channel Islands and the impacts to the citizens. This occupation was something most of us were unaware of. We were saddened to hear of characters who disappeared or lost family during the war who were brought to the island (no spoilers!). We grew to love Sidney as the voice of encouragement and friendship to Juliet; we also grew to loathe Mark Reynolds, her arrogant American suitor and publisher. It was amazing how many details we discovered by hearing the story from everyone’s perspective.
Juliet eventually goes to Guernsey to meet the society, as she would like to write her next book about the these people and the island. She falls in love with all of it: the people, the stories, the experiences, and the island. She finds real happiness there. She takes care of Kit, Elizabeth’s daughter, and works on the farm with Dawsey. She learns about the island from Amelia and Eben, two other members of the society. She bonds with many people and their life here.
Juliet realizes that she wants more than the life she holds in London. She longs to write her next book under her own name and of a topic of her own choosing. She does not want or need a wealthy, American suitor to sweep her away from this life. She wants to stay on Guernsey with everyone, especially Dawsey.
Who knew a used book and a letter from a stranger could change one life so much?
We hope you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as much as we did. Historical fiction is a great way to learn something new while reading an entertaining story. We also loved seeing a book club bring people together, just like ours! We loved the book: Christian gave it five stars! You can also watch the film based on this book on Netflix, something we also recommend.
Read with us next month – our selection is Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis!