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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society    by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows Amazon.com order for
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer
Order:  USA  Can
Dial, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

This paperback edition of Mary Ann Shaffer's wonderful novel was released last year, but if you missed it, do yourself a favor, and get a copy now.

I have to admit that this is an unabashed feel good novel, but I make no apologies for it! What's wrong with a happy ending, loveable characters and a story line that makes you feel really good when you finish the final page? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Frankly, I did not intend to read this book. It was a gift my sister gave my wife, but I picked it up out of curiosity (yes, the quirky title was part of the reason!) and read a few pages. In a matter of minutes I was hooked. I read over a hundred pages the first day and was sorry to finish this book the next afternoon. In fact, I even considered slowing down to stretch out the whole experience!

Using an epistolary narrative (a series of letters) that will remind some older folks of reading Daddy Long Legs eons ago, the novel is set just after the close of World War II. The central character is a likeable young author who receives a strange letter from a man on Guernsey. He writes, 'I know of you because I have an old book that once belonged to you the Selected Essays of Elia, by an author whose name in real life was Charles Lamb. Your name and address were written inside the front cover.'

Dawsey Adams goes on to ask Juliet Ashton if she would suggest some more titles by Lamb since he loves the author's work. 'Though the Germans are gone now, there aren't any bookshops left on Guernsey ... Could you send me the name and address of a bookshop in London? I would like to order more of Charles Lamb's writings by post.'

This simple, no-nonsense, straightforward request is the spark that ignites a wonderful relationship between Juliet, Dawsey and the other residents of the village he lives in.

Eventually, the story moves from London to the island, but the letters continue as Juliet keeps her friends and editor abreast of what is happening to her and what is unfolding in the lives of her new friends.

I'm not a huge fan of this epistolary approach but it does work in this instance. In fact, I think it actually adds to the narrative and there's no question that it keeps one reading! The remarkable thing is most of the letters are quite short, a page or two at most, put that's not a problem in envisioning the characters.

You'll discover how the islanders endured the five year German occupation of their homeland and why they formed this unusual literary society. And, like Juliet, you'll quickly count these memorable characters among your friends too!

Mary Ann Shaffer became ill before she finished editing the novel's manuscript. Annie Barrows, her niece and an author, stepped in and took over those chores. Sadly, Shaffer died in 2008, the year the book was released.

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