The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, The Dial Press, 2008, 274 pp
Here's the thing. This book has many of the elements I love in fiction: it is about books, readers and writers; it has an interesting and little known historical context; the main character is an outside-the-box, feminist, brave young woman; the remaining characters, including a very cool kid, are well-drawn and unique; finally tolerance, goodwill and reading save the day. I read it easily, at times with delight, but it just did not in the end turn out to be great.
I am in the minority here because people (mostly women) all over the country love this book to the point of raving. I think that is because, bottom line, it is a love story in the tradition of Pride and Prejudice. I read it for one of my reading groups and interestingly, it was the love story that got the most discussion, while the tribulation of living on an island occupied by Nazis for most of WWII was barely brought up (except by Lisa, who comments regularly here.)
One of the characters in the story is absent throughout, but she is in truth the lynch pin of the entire tale. That is an unusual twist. Again, only Lisa mentioned her.
In these times of publishing and book selling hardship, I feel like a spoil sport, complaining about a book that has sold extremely well. (We will not talk about Dan Brown here.) Then again, I feel like an outcast or a voice crying in the wilderness at some of the reading group discussions I attend. How can it be that I was practically tarred and feathered for making some women read The Gathering by Anne Enright? A book which left me gasping.
Where are the readers who like what I like? Perhaps they do not join reading groups. Hm.
(The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Pride and Prejudice are available on the shelf in paperback at Once Upon A Time Bookstore. The Gathering is available in paperback by special order.)