Congratulations to Vivian B., Dawn S., and Angela S. for winning the Guernsey Giveaway! Happy reading!
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Recently, I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I fell in love with the little island between England and France which provides the setting of this World War II story. But little did I realize that I’ve long been an admirer of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, as it was the home of exiled Victor Hugo and the inspiration for one of my favorite books: Toilers of the Sea.
In the 1800s, when the oppressive emperor Napoleon III came to power in France, Hugo was named traitor for his political views, necessitating his leaving his country for the Channel Islands. Despite these trying circumstances, Hugo produced a great deal of his masterful writing while in exile, including Les Miserables. Visitors to Guernsey can still tour his home there, where he lived for fifteen years: Hauteville House.
Looking at photographs of Guernsey brings me back to being a teenager, reading Toilers of the Sea, imagining the rocky, dangerous coast where so much tragedy can happen. And now, it’s bringing to my imagination the setting for a new story: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for this book here! Only one day left!
Then overwhelmed by the sense of that unknown infinity, like one bewildered by a strange persecution, confronting the shadows of night, in the presence of that impenetrable darkness, in the midst of the murmur of the waves, the swell, the foam, the breeze, under the clouds, under that vast diffusion of force, under that mysterious firmament of wings, of stars, of gulfs, having around him and beneath him the ocean above him the constellations, under the great unfathomable deep, he sank, gave up the struggle, lay down upon the rock, his face towards the stars, humble, and uplifting his joined hands towards the terrible depths, he cried aloud, “Have mercy.”
~ Toilers of the Sea, by Victor Hugo
My first response to reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was: I can’t believe this adorable novel has been in print for nine years and I’ve never heard of it! Forgive me, dear reader, for my failure in raving about this book sooner. I absolutely loved reading this epistolary novel, and I am so excited that it is getting more attention with the recently released film from Netflix.
In this book, we learn about the island of Guernsey, which as part of the Channel Islands, was occupied by the Nazis during World War II. The people of Guernsey share their stories of the occupation, stories of bravery and patience, ingenuity and love. Their lives are the heartwarming kind; they make you want to be friends with them. And sometimes, you just need the kind of book that makes friends with you, the kind of book you could have tea with by your bay window overlooking the sea. This book feels like a penpal letter to your soul.
So what is the “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”? It’s a group of neighbors who come together to enjoy a secret meal (secret because they’ve hidden a pig from the Nazis who took all the animals for themselves) and who by necessity make up a book club on the spot when they’re almost caught. Even though the book club is just a coverup, they keep gathering together and reading books because they find it gives them joy and keeps them feeling alive during the dark times of the occupation.
So one of the things that makes this book work is its epistolary format: it is entirely written as letters from different people, marvelously fitted together to make the plot apparent to the reader. Because of the gaps between letters, there’s a tension about what’s happening off the page, making you feel like you’re in on a secret. There is something so charming about getting to know the characters through not only their own voices but also the voices of their friends. The people that make up the literary society are a community who have been through tragedy and trauma of war and hardship. But they come together and support each other even in the worst of times.
Much of the book is told through the perspective of Juliet, a writer from London who by chance has come to correspond with the Guernsey literary society and who is potentially researching a new book about their experience during the war. Juliet’s voice is endearing, and her “discovery” of the island and the islanders is enjoyable to follow. Finding the literary society for Juliet is like finding her tribe; she realizes she might just belong more on Guernsey than she does at home. And as she makes this discovery shortly after the war is over, we feel her journey like the awakening from nightmare into a dreamlike reality.
If you’ve read this blog before, you might know that I’m a little (ahem, okay a lot) obsessed with British television like Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. This book gave me the same feels that make me obsess over those shows. Many days (if not most) you just need a dose of heartfelt, satisfying story that makes you think and feel at the same time. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the perfect read for this late summer, early autumn in-between time as we start to spend more time cozy inside than out in the sunshine.
The film is streaming now on Netflix, but I highly recommend picking up the book too. You can purchase yours here. To celebrate the new film, Penguin Random House is letting me give away three copies of the book to my readers!
To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below (be sure to link contact information or include some way for me to reach you in case you win! It’s easier if you sign in with Twitter or Facebook.) and/or post on Twitter using the hashtag #guernseygiveaway and @roseofthewest. By leaving a comment on this post or on Twitter, you are agreeing to the following rules:
- No purchase necessary
- One entry per person. An entry is a comment on this post. An additional entry is granted by posting a comment on Twitter with the hashtag #guernseygiveaway and @roseofthewest
- Entrants must be 18 years old or older and residents of the U.S.
- Giveaway entries will be accepted from Tuesday, September 4, 2018 until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 16, 2018.
- 3 randomly selected winners will win a copy of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- 3 winners will be selected at random from the comment section on this post and the comments on Twitter. Only comments received before 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 16, 2018 will be entered. Winners will be announced Monday, September 17, 2018 Winners will have one week to claim prize.
- Prizes can only be shipped to addresses in the U.S.
- The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning
- By entering giveaway, you are submitting the right to access your name for the winning entries as well as for use in a post revealing winners
- If potential winner forfeits or does not claim prize, prize will be re-awarded in Sponsor’s sole discretion
- Neither Rose M. West nor Penguin Random House is liable for any negative impacts as a result of the prize or giveaway
- Prize is provided by Penguin Random House
- Giveaway is regulated in the state of Michigan
- Void where prohibited by law
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