Friday, 25 June 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Unlike my friend Katyboo who has read everything on the planet and knows more about books and theatre than anyone else on the planet, I don't. Occasionally I have books recommended to me but more often than not I browse the libraray or book shop and grab what I hope is something good. Invariably it's not. But every now and then I luck out.

For example, several months back I spent the day in Cambridge. I'm not sure whether its the academia of the place that results in a more high brow book at the local book shop (I should have realised that high brow wasn't me), but I bought three from the bestsellers range and left feeling optimistic.

The first book I tried was dire. It was called The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton. It was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. If it was down to me, it would possibly be her last book. I know that sounds terribly mean and Eleanor, if you happen to read this, I'm sorry. But I just didn't get all the lesbian angst. I'm sure it was very clever and it was probably just me being obtuse but it definitely wasn't my cup of tea. I might sell it to a lesbian book club. They might have more success with it.

The second book had even more critical acclaim. It won the 2009 Man Booker Prize. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is set in Tudor England and is a rather vast book. It started well, but then got incredibly complicated with many historical characters and complex storylines. I tend to read my books at 10pm - 11.30pm (roughly). It's not when my brain is at its peak performance. I eventually gave up. This no doubt makes me a dunce and I will probably incur the scorn of literary geniuses the world over. But sod it, I tried plodding through 2666 by Roberto Bolano and all that happened was I aged in the process. I wasn't about to repeat the experience.

So I turned to my third and final book purchase, wondering just how dire this last work would be. It is called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows.


Honestly, this book is quite possibly the best book I've ever read. It is a series of letters written by the title character (an author) in post war Britain. She discovers a literary society on Guernsey and the book plots her relationship with them. I'm doing it no justice. It is simply brilliant.

I don't want to sound like one of those know-all book critics who dissect the characters with prose of their own so lofty that it sounds like they're trying to outdo the award winning author. So I won't. But take my word for it, this book is something you have to read. It made me laugh out loud and cry just as loudly. It was so incredibly easy to read, yet wasn't fluff. I fell in love with all the characters and Guernsey and made me want to be there.

So this summer, when you are browsing the book stores trying to get a summer read for the beach, choose this one. Then come back and tell me how you found it. So that I can say: 'Told ya so!'


nappy valley girl said...

I haven't read it but have heard good things about it - will definitely put it on my list now.

Have you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett? That is brilliant, and a real page turner as well.

Home Office Mum said...

ooh - no I haven't so thanks for that tip. I am in need of a new book now

katyboo1 said...

Ah, now I haven't read the Eleanor Catton book, but I sometimes struggle with lesbian angst, in literary terms, so I will probably give it a miss.

I loved Wolf Hall, but I love Mantel, and I know a fair bit about Tudor history, so that probably helped.

You are right though. The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Palaver is a fantastic book. I loved it. Sadly it was the author's only book and she died before it was published. Pooh! If you like her and you haven't read Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, or Nancy Mitford you will undoubtedly like. Or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. xx

PantsWithNames said...

I loved it too! Just adored it. And just right for an over fried brain late at night too.

Home Office Mum said...

I knew you'd come up trumps Katyboo. Will add those to my list of things to go get

Pantswithnames - it really was the loveliest book ever!

Countrymom said...

I'm with Nappy Valley girl....The help is fabulous....and coming from SA, its kinda similar....

Home Office Mum said...

thank you so much nappy valley girl and countrymom - I got The Help on a quick loan from the library and have done nothing other than read it all week. What an amazing book. And exactly like our life growing up in South Africa. It was inspired me to go find out more about what happened to our 'maids'. Cursing the haziness of my memories from childhood.

Iota said...

I LOVED this book. I think it's a bit like blogging - short entries, little insights here and there, rather than a full narrative.

And yes, The Help is fantastic too.