Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Where do I sign up for this society?

on September 29, 2011

As I thought about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society one word came to mind that more or less summed up my impression of the book. It’s a word I hesitate to use because it’s somewhat dated. Contemporarily, my experience has been that it’s generally used sarcastically. But it’s a good word. A word that accurately and succinctly depicts the book. That word is charming.

The book is constructed entirely of letters (or telegrams) during the immediate post-World War II period. It’s reminiscent of Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, another book composed of letters. While Ella Minnow Pea is also (dare I use the same word twice in one blog?) charming, the characters and plot is much simpler than Potato Peel Pie, as I affectionately call it. With Potato Peel Pie, over a dozen characters are fleshed out through the course of the book, each with their own back story and experiences. When you stop and think about it, it’s a pretty impressive feat to make these characters seem real, without a bit of narrative exposition, at least in the traditional sense. In fact, the characters seem so real that I found myself grieving when I read that one of the characters passed away.

Potato Peel Pie is a story about the war, without being a War Story, if you can distinguish between the two. What I mean is that the war is a part of the story, and brought some of the characters together, but the purpose of the story isn’t to talk about the war, or how the characters survived before, during and after. I’ve read many of these War Stories and I’m not trying to disparage them in any way, but Potato Peel Pie is different in that the war has become part of the fabric of the characters’ lives. It’s ever-present, because how could such a terrible long-running event not be? But at the same time, most often, the characters don’t actively discuss or think about the war. When they do, they almost discuss it with detachment, as if they’ve grieved all they can, or care to, and that they are just trying to go on with as normal a life as possible. Makes sense to me.

I don’t have much to say about this book, besides the fact that I loved it. I started becoming more and more despondent as each page turned brought me closer to the end of the book. It’s not often that I don’t want a book to end. I read a lot and enjoy many books, but I’m usually ready for the conclusion. In Potato Peel Pie, I could have read for quite some time more, without getting tired of the story or the characters. Anyway, I’m getting dangerously close to blubbering, so I will end by highly recommending you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Right now. Go. Shoo!

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One response to “Where do I sign up for this society?

  1. […] As Amanda said, the story isn’t about WWII, but it’s hard to write about this island in 1946 without the constant reminders of the strife they endured. The authors did a fantastic job creating characters using their own words.  One character – Adelaide Addison – only makes a few brief appearances in the novel, but you can totally picture this overbearing, self-righteous woman who butts into everyone’s business. […]

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