The Book Thief and The Guernsey Litereary & Potato Peel Pie Society

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The Book Thief and The Guernsey Litereary & Potato Peel Pie Society

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Mar 12, 2010, 1:27 pm

Well, I haven't popped into this group in a while, but mostly it's because I haven't had any really good ideas of books to compare. Last month, however, a coworker lent me the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (from now on to be referred to as TGLPPPS). I know it's been pretty popular since its release - I had been wanting to read it since I first heard about it through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers - but I never got around to picking it up until it was literally plopped right into my hands with someone saying "You need to read this book! You'll love it!"

And needless to say, I did love it. :) For those unfamiliar with the story, it takes place after WWII and in a story told through written correspondence it weaves a tale of a unique and charming book club formed by the residents of the island of Guernsey during Nazi occupation. As various members of the society share their letters and stories with a writer in London, she becomes enamored with their lives and becomes part of their world.

Interestingly enough, the book drew many parallels for me to another favorite historical fiction of mine: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (from now on to be referred to as TBT). Sometimes classified as young adult fiction, Zusak's novel is also set in WWII but takes place in Germany with a slightly different perspective on Nazi occupation. Aside from time period though, some of the similarities between TGLPPPS and TBT are what make them two of my favorite novels.

One thing they have in common is a unique narrative style. TGLPPPS is told through letters between all the different characters and the constant changing of narrative voice gives a fresh take and perspective on each portion of the story. TBT has a single narrator, but that narrator is Death, an appropriate choice for the time and place of the novel. I think the creativity in storytelling takes each of these books from being a good story to an excellent book.

Another point that I love in both books is the theme of the power of words. In TGLPPPS each member of the literary society tells a brief tale of a favorite author or book. Their choices in literature tell the reader as much about their personalities as their words and actions in the story. I don't want to spoil any of the plot, but books do a great deal to bring people together and create community in the novel.

This same theme is seen in TBT. The story begins with young Liesel Meminger stealing a book from the cemetery at her brother's graveside. Her desire to learn to read and her craving for books and new words parallels the growth of her character throughout the book and draws her closer to many of the other characters. In both novels, words and books are powerful instruments of change - which could very well be why many bibliophiles (like myself) have become so enamored with these two works.

I don't want to drag this out too long, but does anyone have any other comparisons to add? I know these are both pretty popular books so I'm guessing I'm not the only one who has read and enjoyed both.

Mar 24, 2010, 8:23 pm

I've been wanting to read both of these books, but have not been able to sandwich them in. Must do it - particularly The Book Thief. I do think books and words can be powerful instruments of change - and we need this so much.

Thanks for an excellent comparison. I hope some more people who have read these books will add some of their thoughts and insights!

Jul 27, 2010, 8:05 pm

I've read both, and although I agree there are parallels, I'd not have noticed. Perhaps because I enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society so much, but found The Book Thief less than realistic.

I suppose its because TBT really is more of a Young Adult book. That's the only explanation of the soft soaping treatment it gave wartime Germany. I will say it was a good introductory sort of story for a young person, so it accomplishes it's goal. The idea of Death as a narrator is an excellent idea and it was carried out well. Just wasn't my cuppa.

Oct 10, 2013, 6:06 pm

Thanks for the thoughts on these books. I've read Potato Peel Pie Society and loved it. Now I think I'll have to pick up The Book Thief.