Hills Shire Mayor Michelle Byrne, and her mum to three children under five, I don’t often get a chance to read just for pleasure! However staying home due to COVID-19 restrictions, and joining The Women’s Shed – Hills Shire online book club found me spending an overcast weekend recently curled up with ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – and becoming completely immersed in another time and place.
The book is a historical fiction, and very different to a book I would have normally chosen for myself, but it had me engaged from the start. The entire story, set after WWII is told through a series of letters between a journalist, Juliet Ashton, her publicist Sidney, her friend Sophie and a bunch of strangers from the Chanel Island, Guernsey. During the war, Juliet wrote a humorous column under the alias of Izzy Bickerstaff for the London Times. Post war, her columns are made into a book, but she finds herself wanting to retire her alias and instead focus on writing a serious book. But she finds herself struggling for ideas. A random letter from Dawesy Adams from Guernsey who found her name and address in a book she once owned not only gives her a story but completely changes her life as she finds herself not only corresponding with Dawesy, but also a host of other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The members of the society are all very different and through the letters to Juliet, they reveal the struggles and triumphs of their lives and the importance of the society as a means of escapism from the horrors of German occupation during the war. Fascinated by the Chanel Island and the characters that live there, Juliet plans a trip to Guernsey and – well, you’ll have to read the book if you want to know what happens! The book not only explores the relationships between the various characters, it also explores the strength of the human spirit in trying times and gives us an insight into what life would have been like during WWII.
Reading this book reminded me of why I love supporting literacy programs in our libraries and how important it is to foster a love of books and reading in our community, especially in our children.