This book has everything I like in a story: an intriguing plot, some good history thrown in (of the World War II variety, which is my favorite period to read about), a hint of romance, and charming voices. I won’t bother to give a synopsis here since they are readily available. I’m just glad that this month’s Bookclub at 5 Minutes for Books nudged me toward this book, which I normally would’ve avoided given its best-seller status. Melissa, who contributes to 5 Minutes for Books, posed several interesting questions about this book, but I am so taken by my own ponderings about the story that I share them, instead. This post might be a little tedious for those of you who aren’t fans of a certain Canadian authoress from the early twentieth century and well-read in her ouevre, so feel free to skip it. Or, read it and be inspired to delve further into what I consider to be some of the most entertaining and heart-warming writing around.
I was not too far into this charming story before the voices of Juliet Ashton and her pen-pals began to sound comfortingly, enjoyably familiar. This book just smacks of L.M. Montgomery’s influence! I have no way of knowing if Mary Ann Shaffer was a fan of L.M. Montgomery, but reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society reminded me so much
several of Montgomery’s books that I wouldn’t wonder if she were. Several of Montgomery’s books in particular stand out as similar to me: Anne of Windy Poplars, due to its epistolary format, and post-marriage books about Anne: Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside.
Both Guernsey Society (please, may I abbreviate the title? One of the few things that bugged me about this book is the title–it’s too long) and Anne of Windy Poplars are written from the point of view of a young, unmarried woman.
Juliet is much older and more worldly wise than Anne, and Anne is engaged in her story, but still, the voices and observations are very similar. I love this! I love this type of story–full of vignettes that introduce you, the reader, to so many other characters that you would’ve never gotten to know without their social, wry, witty lives and observations. Granted, if memory serves me well (and it has been a long time since I’ve read it), Windy Poplars is comprised entirely of correspondence between Anne and Gilbert, not other correspondence between a host of people, like Guernsey, but still–it’s the little snapshot into life that we get from reading them that is similar.
Guernsey Literary Society reminds me of the post-marriage Anne books for a couple of reasons. One of my favorite, favorite, favorite vignettes (really, it’s more than that–it’s a major part of the plot) from one of the latter Anne books (House of Dreams or Anne of Ingleside, I forget which) is the story of Leslie Moore. Her story is romantic and tragic, and her character is spellbinding. Her counterpart in Guernsey Society is, of course, Elizabeth McKenna. Elizabeth’s daughter, Kit, is a war baby, which brings us to Rilla of Ingleside and Rilla’s own war baby.
The similarities abound, but really, it’s the spirit of the stories that are similar. Montgomery’s characters, especially Anne, and Shaffer’s characters, especially Juliet, have an effervescence and love for life that is heartwarming and refreshing. What’s more, they both have a way with words that make their correspondence, thoughts, and dialogue a joy to read.
I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society almost as much as I love the Anne series. That’s saying a lot. Of course, Guernsey Society has a few too many obligatory nods to modern day sensibilities (i.e. cursing, hom****uality mentioned several times, etc.) for my own personal taste, but I love the story itself too much to not give it a Highly Recommended. If you love Anne, read Guernsey Society. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.