I'd heard a number of Pajibans mention The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows as a charming, little book. Even so, it took me awhile to decide to give it a go. The title sounded odd, I had no idea what it was about, and I was half expecting a novel that tried too hard to be cute and quaint. Fortunately, I was wrong, and this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable books I've read all year.
Told in an epistolary style, we learn about Juliet Ashton and her life in London after World War I from the letters she writes to her friends and publisher. Juliet is a successful newspaper columnist looking for a book idea when she stumbles into correspondence with Dawsey Adams, an inhabitant on Guernsey Island. Through Dawsey, Juliet begins correspondence with a number of other island residents and learns about their "Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," which began during German occupation as an excuse when the group was caught out after curfew. Intrigued by their lives,their community, and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet decides to center her new book on this society and moves down there for an extended visit to meet everyone in person and learn more about their lives.
Juliet is a great protagonist. She is independent, original, and somewhat rebellious. In fact, the characters in this novel are so likable, fun, and uncomplaining that the very difficult and heartrending situations they deal with kind of sneak up on you. Yes, this book is sweet and charming. It feels old-fashioned in its writing and values. But all of the characters are reeling from the effects of a terrible war. This idyllic community had to live with German occupation, hunger, and death for years. Juliet Ashton's home was destroyed, and tragedy touched everyone in this story. What was so uplifting was how the characters came together, made the best of their situations, and took care of each other.