Another in my series of “holiday reads” for grown ups!
The Plot: London, 1946. Author Juliet Ashton, thirtysomething, is looking for an idea for a new book when she gets a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer from Guernsey who found her name in a book and is wondering if she could help him find more reading material. Told solely in letters, Dawsey Adams and his friends tell Juliet about their life on Guernsey during the German occupation.
The Good: I am the last person in the world to read this book, right?
The story of Dawsey Adams and his friends and neighbors, and what they did and didn’t do during the German occupation, fascinated me. There was much I didn’t know, beginning with the fact that the Channel Islands were occupied for almost five years. The conceit is not just the letters, but also the Literary Society and the power of books. The Society started as an excuse to the Germans to explain a breach of curfew, but went from an invention to a reality. For some people, like Dawsey, books ended up offering solace, distraction, something to do, and reading each member’s unique relationship with the books they read was beautiful. Along the way, Shaffee and Barrows include so many details about the occupation, both large and small, that part of me wants to go out and read some nonfiction about it, and part of me doesn’t because I don’t want to find out what parts are fiction.
At the same time, the story is also told of Juliet’s experiences in London during World War II, and of her present life as an author. That, too, interested me and Juliet’s story of why she broke off an engagement at the last minute had me laughing and sympathizing with her.
Juliet, an author, has discovered an intriguing, little known story. What else can she do, but go to Guernsey and meet her pen pals? I know the pen pals are fictitious, but I want to go to Guernsey now!
Despite the dark things that happened during the Occupation, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is hopeful and offers happiness, to the reader and to Juliet and Dawsey and their friends. There is even a romance that is sweet and subtle.
I have to admit — when Juliet actually went to Guernsey? And met all the people? It felt a bit like a reader entering a story they’d been reading, like The Neverending Story or (for movies) The Purple Rose of Cairo, except without the fantasy. It seemed almost too perfect, in how it all came together. But you know what? Sometimes a person just wants a happy ending, and that ending made this a perfect holiday read.