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review 2017-06-26 06:11
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie Barrows

I don't really remember liking this book when I first read it (I didn't dislike it either though). I do remember distinctly thinking Dawsey was a 70-year-old man. Spoilers (but not really), he's not and this time around I caught all the references to how he's not 70 years old. But his character really feels like a 70 year old man.


I mostly reread this one because it was available on Overdrive and I needed something easy to pick up and put down when it's slow at work. If you liked this, give 84, Charing Cross Road a try. It's like Guernsey, but better. And real.

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review 2016-01-11 17:55
M. A. Shaffer, A. Barrows "Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Literatury i Placka z Kartoflanych Obierek"
Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Literatury i Placka z Kartoflanych Obierek - Annie Barrows,Mary Ann Shaffer

Juliet Ashton, młoda pisarka, autorka książek o okupacji, szuka pomysłów do kolejnej publikacji. Niespodziewanie dostaje list od Dawseya Adamsa. Mężczyzna, zafascynowany twórczością Charlesa Lamba, prosi ją o pomoc. Wspomina także o Stowarzyszeniu Miłośników Literatury i Placka z Kartoflanych Obierek, założonym przez mieszkańców wyspy Guernsey z powodu pieczonego prosiaka. Zaintrygowana Juliet nawiązuje korespondencję z Dawseyem i pozostałymi członkami grupy. Decyduje się również odwiedzić ich osobiście. Mieszkańcy wyspy, dowiedziawszy się, że zbiera materiały do nowej książki, chętnie dzielą się z nią wspomnieniami z okresu okupacji. Juliet bierze też udział w zebraniach Stowarzyszenia i pomaga w opiece nad czteroletnią Kit - córką Elizabeth (wywiezionej do obozu koncentracyjnego) i niemieckiego żołnierza.


Książka, napisana w formie listów, jest pełna ciepła i humoru. Mimo nieustannie powracających motywów związanych z okupacją, całość tchnie optymizmem, uderzająca jest pogoda ducha bohaterów i nadzieja na powrót do względnej normalności. Wzrusza, porusza, zmusza do refleksji, ale momentami również rozśmiesza. Szczególnie zabawne okazało się zebranie Stowarzyszenia, podczas którego Jonas Skeeter miał podzielić się swoimi wrażeniami z lektury "Rozmyślań" Marka Aureliusza:


Stanął na środku pokoju, ponuro rozejrzał się po obecnych i oznajmił, że nie zamierzał przychodzić, a tego głupiego Marka Aureliusza przeczytał tylko dlatego, iż napuścił go jego najstarszy, najlepszy i b y ł y przyjaciel, Woodrow Cutter. [...] Przełknąłem zatem dumę i przeczytałem tę głupią książkę. A teraz mówię przy wszystkich i głośno: Wstydź się Woodrow! Jak mogłeś wcisnąć coś takiego najlepszemu przyjacielowi!


Co zatem łączy miłośników literatury, placek z kartoflanych obierek i pieczonego prosiaka? Przekonajcie się sami, polecam!


Source: ogrodksiazek.blogspot.com/2014/09/m-shaffer-barrows-stowarzyszenie.html
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review 2016-01-01 14:40
"The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - epistolary novel packed with strong voices and deep emotions
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie Barrows

About forty-five minutes in to this eight hour novel, I was on the verge of giving up. I liked the writing and the pace but I couldn't engage with the apparently privileged middle-class characters sharing light-weight banter about publishing and book tours, immediately after the end of World War Two. They and the book  seemed to lack substance and I was getting ready to move on. I promised myself that I'd stop after ninety minutes if things didn't get better.


They did get better. Dramatically better. So much so that I feel I would have missed something quite special if I hadn't persisted.


Looking back, I realise that the light-weight banter I was unsatisfied by was a forced cheerfulness shared by old friends trying to come to terms with the end of hard times and discovering that, once something bad has happened to you, it becomes part of you. You carry it with you like a scar or a shrapnel in your flesh. It is has changed you, is part of you but, with the help of light-weight banter and the love of good friends, need not define who you are going to become.


I started to engage with the book as soon as the letters from Guernsey started to arrive. These were people I wanted to know and who had stories that I wanted to hear.


As they were meant to, each letter pulled me further and further into the world of the Islanders and fed my hunger to know what the German occupation had been like for them: what they had done, what they had lost, whether and how they could build a future for themselves from the ruins of the war.


The audiobook format is a perfect match for the epistolary novel form, with different narrators bringing each correspondent alive. Every narrator did a splendid job in creating a sense of identity and growing intimacy as the novel unfolded.


Normally, I don't do well with novel about the behaviour of the Germans in World War II. Too many books seem to glory in the details of the atrocities or push for the easy-to-claim-in-retrospect moral high ground. What I found compelling about this book was the very personal nature of the disclosures, grounded in individual experiences where one has to decide whether to do what is right or what is safe, where one becomes or is made, more or less human by each decision and where the highest form of bravery is not giving way to despair in the face of inhuman behaviour.


There are many passages in this book that moved me to tears; many stories that I know will stay with me, even though I would rather not have them in my head. So much for the book being too light-weight.


Yet this book in neither a dirge nor a lament. It is a book about the joy of life and love as much as it is about sorrow and loss. There is a love story, delicate, slight but wondrous all the same, at the centre of this book. There are also friendships and kindnesses that lift the spirit.


By the end of the book, I began to wish that I too could visit this version of Guernsey and become an honorary  member of its literary society.


I've seen some reviews that criticise the novel for not being focused enough on books, implying that the title and the literary society are marketing gimmicks disguising an entirely different type of novel.


I understand this view but I don't share it. The book does not focus on books. It focuses on readers, on why they read and why they need to talk to others about what they have read. 


I came to understand how a single line from Shakespeare can "who says most when he says the least" can help a man crystallise his reaction to calamity and face it with greater calm, how the letters of a man dead for centuries can guide a lost and damaged reader back into society and how a tale written for a grieving child can bring hope and happiness years later.


In my view, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" holds up reading and discussing with others what one has read, as an activity that can sustain humanity in the face of brutality, not by providing an escape route but by refreshing the roots of our humanity: a shared human condition, a shared and constantly evolving imagination and the ability to surface truth and emotion and give them their due.


I recommend this wonderful book to anyone who loves life and books and the readers who connect the two.

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text 2015-08-01 01:58
July Reading Roundup
Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel
Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims - Toby Clements
Oswald: Return of the King - Edoardo Albert
Sinful Folk - Nikki McClure,Ned Hayes
Isabella: Braveheart of France - Colin Falconer
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie Barrows
Six Days: The Age of the Earth and the Decline of the Church - Ken Ham

I didn't get nearly as much reading done this month as I would have liked. My latest novel release date is quickly approaching, so I have been feverishly editing, formatting, and editing again! I'm hoping to do better in August including some great indie historical fiction reads.


Currently in progress:

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

A Perilous Alliance by Fiona Buckley

Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle

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review 2015-07-29 01:16
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer & Barrows
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie Barrows

This novel created incredibly mixed feelings in me, beginning with the ridiculous, lengthy title that gives no hint as to what the book is actually about. I mean, it makes perfect sense once you've read it, but when this was brought up in book club, I thought, what the hell is that?!


This book and I started off on the wrong foot. I picked it up at the library and immediately saw a glowing endorsement from Elizabeth Gilbert on the cover. Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love is my most despised book of all time. So, when I opened the cover and saw that the book is entirely made up of letters, one of my least favorite story-telling tools, I almost quit at page one.


But everyone else in my book club was enjoying it, and I was interested in the WWII element of the story. I persevered.


In the end, I was glad that I did. While I never grew to appreciate the letter format and Juliet does have similarities to the self-absorbed Gilbert, the people of Guernsey drew me in. The fate of the channel islands during the war was an aspect of history that I had not even considered, and I absolutely fell in love with Elizabeth McKenna.


The story manages to flow between Holocaust tears to campy humor through the personalities and stories of the varied cast of characters, making this a quick and captivating read. Some of the attitudes were a little modern for the 1940s, but a large portion of the novel lacks seriousness anyway so I didn't get too worked up about it.


It's cute & touching, but in the end I agreed with Juliet's publisher and friend, Sydney. "Your book needs a center. I don't mean more in-depth interviews. I mean one person's voice to tell what was happening all around her. As written now, the facts, as interesting as they are, seem like random, scattered shots."


I found myself wishing that I could read the fictional story that Juliet was supposed to be writing, rather than this one. However, the characters do convince the reader to fall in love with them, even if they seem a little too good to be true.

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