51. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I was captivated the first time I heard the title, and knew I had to read it. There is unfortunately little mention of Potato Peel Pie, but the characters of the Guernsey Literary Society are well-drawn and amusing. The book is a series of letters between a London-based author, Juliet Ashton, and the members of the aforementioned Guernsey Island society. The events take place in 1946, and recall the events of World War II, particularly the German occupation of the British Channel Islands.
The place was unique enough that much of the historical information was new to me, despite my somewhat extensive knowledge of the time period. The book does not shirk, rather, it embraces, difficult material, but the focus is more on the characters and present events, so that it does not induce the heavy depression most Holocaust and World War II tomes aim at. This is an excellent book for all ages, it might be a bit incomprehensible to a four-year-old (one of the main characters is four), but most people over should be able to read (or be read to) and enjoy.
The plot lines are simplistic, but there are an appropriate number of twists to keep plot junkies interested. The real jewels are the characters, from "more beautiful at sixty than she could have been at twenty" Amelia Maugery, to mischievous Kit, enthusiastic potion-concocting Isola, stoic Eben, and quiet Charles Lamb fan and pig farmer, Dawsey Adams, there is rarely a dull moment. It may not be your deepest read in the year to come, but you won't regret it!