I wracked my brains for a book that I've read that left me feeling hopeful after I read it, and the book I came up with is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
The title is a mouthful but memorable; part of me started reading the book simply so I could figure out what a 'literary and potato peel pie society' would consist of and why someone would start such a society. My dear friend Shannon recommended the book to me months before I actually read it, and at first I was a bit skeptical because the book is written and presented as a collection of personal letters sent among the main characters in the book. Once I got to the third letter, though, I was hooked. Reading letters rather than a more typical narrative made the story feel more "real" because it was like discovering a treasure trove of saved letters from a historical era.
The book is set just after the Second World War in Guernsey, a British island that had been inhabited by the Nazis for part of the war. The primary character, Juliet, is a writer who had written light pieces for a newspaper during the war to provide hope for the residents of London during desolate times of bombings and raids. After the war, her life--as well as the world around her--is in shambles. She has no real direction for herself when the book begins, but her life takes her on a journey when she finds someone who shares the love of one of her favorite authors. Through letters, she learns that this man is a part of a group called the "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," and she becomes intrigued. She plans a vacation to meet the man and his literary society to re-spark her writing efforts. While there, her life--and writing--changes directions. The book offers a look into post-war England and shows the characters as they--and those around them--put their lives back together. The plot alone is enough to fulfill its status as a hopeful book, yet the characters and setting also drew me in. The characters' triumphs were my triumphs; their discoveries opened my heart and spurred me on through the book.
Those aspects of the book are not all that make me feel hope, though--the language is both whimsical and profound, and the ideas explored include both the minute and philosophically deep. One of my favorite lines in the book--because of its whimsicality--is this:
The two of them together benasties the mind.How can you not love a book that uses a word like benasties? I also like that I learned new words, such as inveigle, while reading. The characters, most of whom are avid readers, discuss more than their daily lives--they discuss ideas and philosophers and hopes and dreams. One such line that stuck with me is a quote a character provided from Seneca:
As Seneca says, "Light griefs are loquacious, but the great are dumb."I applaud Shaffer and Barrows for writing such a timeless and hopeful book. What books have you read that left you with feelings of hope?
Happy reading and hoping!