The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows Just Like My Mommma's Pie

Overall, I like my mother's cooking. She's gotten more creative over the years, and eating what she's prepared gives me a nice, homey feeling. However, I've always been a bit hesitant about my mother's desserts, particularly her pies. They always come out far too sweet for my taste, because she adds lots of sugar to berries that are already naturally sweet.

This book is a lot like my mother's pie. It looks pretty, the crust is warm and flaky, but one bite and the filling sends you into a diabetic coma.

Juliet Ashton is an English authoress extraordinaire with writer's block. Through some crazy circumstances (one of her sold books gets into the hands of pig farmer, Dawsey), she gets in contact with the citizens of Gurnsey, an island in the English Channel--particularly the citizens in the Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and learns how they formed and survived the war.

I am not opposed to charming, quirky, upbeat books set in small, agrarian towns with lots of charming, cute, quirky characters. I grew up reading Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jan Karon's Mitford series, and others. But this book isn't like the others I mentioned. Instead of feeling like a quirky town, I feel like I am forced into a manufactured artificial sugar mill, having my emotions purposefully tweaked and pulled to suit the authors' whims.

The characters are all incredibly flat, boring, and one dimensional. Our protagonist, Juliet, is flaming Mary Sue Number 1. I had to suffer through so many over-the-top descriptions of how charming, upbeat, perky, spunky, free-willed, and feminist she is, I was gagging and crying for something salty. Everyone loves her; she is perfect at everything; she immediately makes friends with everyone; those she doesn't immediately befriend end up being bad, bad, horrible people who all get their come-uppance in the end. In no way is Juliet a real character; she has absolutely no flaws whatsoever.

But worse than Juliet is Flaming Mary Sue 2: Elizabeth. Everything that goddamn woman did was worshipped by the all the "good" people. She was only a servant girl, but OF COURSE, she could do whatever she wanted, slap people around, sleep around, have an illegitimate child, sleep with a German, defy authorities, and be superwoman in FRAKKIN' everything and everyone STILL loves her and worships her and is SO UPSET that she is gone. This woman, more than anyone else in the ENTIRE cast, drove me up the wall bonkers, and I HATED each and every time she was drug into the story (which was CONSTANTLY).

The rest of the cast is rounded out with more flaming stereotypes or boring, one dimensional characters. We have our ONE AND ONLY GERMAN who is a good guy and can feel pain (because, as we all know, ALL GERMANS in the Nazi army cannot feel pain). We have our American @sshole who tries to bully our spunky heroine into marriage. We have our quriky witch wannabe, who LOVES "Wuthering Heights". We have our self-righteous prude, who is bad because she doesn't worship the beloved Goddess, Elizabeth and is okay to pick on to people you barely know because she's EVIL. We have lots of charming farmers, who are somehow ALL trained in reading and comprehending this classical literature and they LIKE IT. We have CUTE CHILDREN, who are wise beyond their years and OH SO CHARMING to everyone and IMMEDIATELY get all adults to fall in love with them (GAG ME!!). Oh, and we even have a homosexual just to show how TOLERANT this 1940's crowd is. There is no one in this entire cast that bears a modicum of resemblance to real people.

The letter writing is gimmicky. Around 90% of the letters sounds like they are written by the exact same person (which, in a sense, they were: the author). The only ones I could tolerate were the ones written by the lady who read the cookbook (now THAT was brilliance! I absolutely adored her devotion and love for cooking and her comparisons to reading) and one or two farmers that ACTUALLY sounded like they were farmers, with imperfect grammar and regional cadences. Not to mention, I was often confused reading these letters. Apparently, not all letters that were exchanged between the peoples were printed in this novel, as Sidney doesn't respond to Juliet near enough and some of Juliet's replies indicate she's received letters or sent letters we don't read. And also, the dates on the letters were COMPLETELY bogus. Juliet is complaining a month after Sidney has broken his leg about his injury? Broken legs take MONTHS to heal. Juliet can send and receive letters from Australia in TWO WEEKS?! WOW, that mail delivery service is, in some ways, better than NOW. Juliet is going to Gurnsey after knowing about these people for a mere few months? Mark is pushing for marriage after barely knowing Juliet 4 months? I call foul. These aren't the actions of people in the 1940's; these are the actions of people in the present day.

The actual plot is almost non-existent. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; Anne of Green Gables didn't have a plot, per say, and was more a character novel. The problem with this book was the character growth was poor or non-existent and the events and revelations were almost bland. We know almost from the onset that Juliet won't be with Mark; her Romantic Plot Triangle was unnecessary to the T. Otherwise, Juliet doesn't change at all, and neither do any of the other characters--they are all as perfect and wonderful as they started out being. By this time, there have been so many books and movies and memoirs about the atrocities of World War II and the Third Reich, I almost say we are immune to it and nothing this book say about this time period is likely to knock us out. Concentration camps? Yup, Corrie Ten Boom. Hiding Jews? Yup, Anne Frank. German Occupation? Yup, pick, your WWII medium. If anything, the book comes out weak on these areas.

And, by the way, why are people in 1946 so keen on writing books about the experience in WWII? Do people really come out of a war and want to write memoirs and books about how people got out of a war? Don't they usually wait like 20 years before they write their tome? I don't know, it just felt odd to me.

I don't want to sound like I hated this or I found this to be the worst book ever. As I said above, there were a few letters that truly did sound unique. I loved the letter from the cookbook lady (I can't remember her name, she only wrote one letter). I also found that this novel made me aware of A) an island that I didn't realize existed, and B) the reactions of people to events that have become almost overdone in modern times. Also, the writing was fairly easy to read, the pace quick, and the story short.

Maybe I wasn't in the mood for something so light and frothy. Maybe I am tired of reading about WWII. I don't know, but this book was tiresome to get through, and I nearly got cavities from all the sugar in these pages. Perhaps if you want to read a lighter take on WWII, this would be a good book for you. As for me, I need to get to the dentist to fill in these cavities and switch to some ruffage.