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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

 “Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instant in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true” writes Juliet, the protagonist of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, quite early on in the book. 

Such was the feeling that actually drew me towards this book. I had gone to the bookstore to pick up a specific title for my fiction fix, but realised that it was out of stock. As I scanned the beautiful wooden book racks, for another alternative, it seemed that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  gently beckoned me towards it. 

The plot moves ahead via a series of letter exchanges. Juliet is a successful writer in London and is currently facing a writers block. The time is post- World War II and Britain is moving ahead, trying to leave the shreds of war time memories behind. However, the remembrance of the huge impact of the war and of the German occupation make their sinister presence felt in the lives of the common people.

I’m not surprised that the details of the German occupation specially in Guernsey, which is in the Channel Islands was so heartbreaking and seemed so real and so present today. After all, at the time of reading this book, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the Israel-Hamas conflict is reeling. And the victims, as always are the common people. 

Juliet enters into correspondence with members of a literary society in Guersuey and the letters back and forth tell the tale of the pain of war, it’s deep psychological impact that does not end with the war but continues to live in the hearts of the people. But despite the melancholy, there is also hope. Above everything else the letters talk of the redeeming power of community and of books. 

One of the characters in the novel, writes in a letter that reading and discussing a book on Seneca helped to keep them alive in what was to come later. Books made the trauma bearable or maybe it was the human connection fostered through books that played a major part in getting people through the horror of war. 

Juliets interest in the society and its members deepens and she visits the place, only to have her life entwined and intertwined with theirs. Amidst post-war trauma,  the sheer warmth and humanness of ordinary folk stands out in extraordinary ways. For me, the book is a beautiful unexpected love, story filled with warmth and humour. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a very heartwarming love story about the power of community and books. 

Dhanishta Shah

Dhanishta is a Counselling Psychologist and a freelance writer. She is the Founder of Bookedforlife.