The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society takes place shortly after WWII, so if you liked Dear Mrs. Bird (my June, 2019 book club pick) or Call the Midwife, there’s a good chance you’ll like this too.
This is the book that the Netflix movie (of the same name) is based on. Even if you’ve already watched the film, I highly recommend checking out the book too.
The film is wonderful, but of course, there are differences between the two versions of the story. For starters, the novel is epistolary which means it’s written as a series of letters between the characters.
This was the storytelling format of choice in the nineteenth century, and it was a wise strategy for this novel because it helps create the atmosphere of the period. Plus, for us as readers, it’s kind of fun to have something a little different.
Interestingly, one of the main shifts between the two versions is who the main character is. The film focuses very much on the love story between Juliet and Dawsey. That means Juliet is the protagonist and, as I argued on a recent episode of the Story Grid Editor Roundtable podcast, Elizabeth is the antagonist.
However, the authors of the novel (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows) see Elizabeth as the main character. That makes for a very different story. The book focuses on the German occupation of Guernsey and how the local people survived it. There’s still a love story between Juliet and Dawsey, but it’s a minor plot point.
We also hear more about the literary society and how it enabled them come together as a community and help one another during this period of history. It was a lifeline for them and was so much more significant than the film would lead you to believe.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Charles Lamb is a real author and his book, Tales From Shakespeare (referenced in both the novel and film) is a real book.
The novel is sad, yet hopeful; entertaining yet poignant. Through their letters, the characters come to life. Some of them will break your heart while others, like Isola, will make you laugh.
Available in print, digital and audio versions. Visit your local library or click here to buy the ebook. If your library doesn’t carry this book, ask them to order it.
The audiobook is performed by a number of voice actors, so it’s like listening to a radio play. This is a great book to listen to while you do the housework.