Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Publisher: Dial Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Epistolary Novels
Number of Pages: 274
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio
Rating Scale: 5Q, 3P
Links to Author’s Website and Interviews
Links to Reviews
Who could ever guess that a letter from a stranger could forever change a person’s life?
Guernsey is an epistolary novel that is set in the year following the end of World War II. It’s set in Great Britain, specifically the channel island known as Guernsey. As the story opens, we meet Juliet Ashton, a writer who has made a name of herself for the articles she’s written during the course of the war. She has recently compiled her articles into a book and is on a book tour. While on the lookout for a new story idea, she randomly gets a letter from a stranger named Dawsey Adams, who is a resident of Guernsey Island. He accidentally comes across one of her own books and the two strike up a friendship. She learns from Dawsey that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet is fascinated by this group and discovers that it was created by accident during the Nazi occupation but that the group stuck with it anyway because they found that they liked discussing books. Dawsey puts Juliet in contact with the other members and she decides that she wants to write her next book about this group. In the second part of the book, she goes to visit the island, which she falls in love with. She begins writing her book and becomes especially interested in a woman named Elizabeth, who was taken away by the Nazis and hasn’t been seen since.
I normally don’t like historical fiction, so I was really surprised to find that I really loved this book. Like Juliet, I too fell in love with Guernsey and its eccentric inhabitants. I thought all of the characters were richly drawn, some of which made laugh out loud several times. I also, however, enjoyed the serious side of the book, which tells the story of how these people survived the Nazi occupation. At times, it was heart-wrenching to hear what tragedies had befallen certain characters. Elizabeth’s story was especially tragic and easily became one of the most interesting characters in the book. What is fascinating about this is that we only hear about her story second-hand from the people who knew her. This book was the perfect mixture of both sadness and humor. At the end, the book just completely warmed my heart. I’m extremely glad that I decided to read this book.
Significance of Book
This book was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and has even won a couple of awards. The characters are pitch perfect and, even though it is sad, it is one of the most heartwarming stories I have ever read.
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Awards and Lists
#1 New York Times Bestseller
Indies’ Choice Book Awards: Adult Fiction
Library Journal Best Books: 2008
- Discuss the importance of reading in the novel
- Discuss the character of Elizabeth McKenna and how she is heroine of novel without ever being present.
- Discuss each character and their book choices and how it reflects their personalities.
Justification of Selection
This book has been recommended to me for years, but I always put it off because I don’t like historical fiction. When I started preparing for the database assignment, I realized that I needed to read some historical fiction, so I decided to try it out. One of the reasons I gave in is that I was intrigued by the epistolary format. I started it thinking that I could always choose another book if I hated it, but that moment never came. I liked it from the very first page and was completely in love with it by the end.