A literary society and a book group

I have mentioned before that I’m a member of two book groups. But what with the bad weather and festive celebrations two meetings were cancelled. Which has somehow meant that I’ve already read the next four books…Well, I suppose that means I won’t have to do a last minute panic read of some good books. The only problem is that I need to remember who I lent/gave my copies of the books to; Daughter ‘s bookshelves here I come!

The book that we discussed last night was greatly enjoyed by all. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

was originally picked as quite a short read for December’s book, but the drive of the host’s house was so slippery the meeting was postponed until yesterday. Which meant that I had my copy back in excellent time to reread this really good book.

The novel is in the form of letters written to, and by, a writer called Juliet. During the Second World War she wrote a magazine column, now collected into a book, and she is promoting the sale of this book published through her good friend Sidney. She emerges as quite a character who throws teapots at nasty journalists, lives in a flat after her home full of cherished books is flattened by the Blitz, and is wooed by a rich American. By chance she is contacted by a survivor of the German Occupation of the Isle of Guernsey, who lets slip that he was a member of the Literary Society of the title. Intrigued, and keen to write an article about the importance of reading in holding people together, she invites other members of the society to write to her. The letters she receives recount the reality of life on the island, in all its difficulties, challenges and personalties.

The format of the book sounds a little off putting, but having waded through many books of letters I would say that this is really good presentation for the simple reason that each letter is headed by the name of the sender and recipient. It is debatable whether the characters are distinguished enough in their writing styles, but the overall effect is satisfying. Some characters emerge as likable, mystifying, annoying and downright daft, but all worth reading about, especially in their choice of books.

This book is a well written, interesting read, satisfying in most outcomes, and with some harrowing moments, which are bearable in context. I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it widely. It is not the most trendy, cutting edge or sophisticated book that you will read, but it is unusual, and sadly, as the only novel by Mary Ann Shaffer, unique.