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Epistolary Novels

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows may be a mouthful to pronounce, but it is worth every syllable for this warm and hopeful novel, which follows a writer trying to find a new path for herself after World War II.  This search brings her to a group of people who suffered through German occupation on their home island of Guernsey during the war. What follows is friendships and families being formed, love being found, and a wonderful determination to live fully despite hardships of the past.  One of the interesting things about this novel is its format. The entire novel is in the form of letters written between the main characters. From these letters you come to understand the feelings and personalities of these characters – whether it is stated outright or not – and the gradual discovery of what happened in the past, and what is happening in their present, is a delight for readers as they follow along. The audio book version of this novel is highly recommended as well, as you get to hear each character voiced by their own actor!

This method of writing, called the epistolary format, has been used for hundreds of years and is one of this librarian’s favorite kind of novels! Other examples include 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, and Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher to name just a few.

 

 

 

 

 

Similar books include:

 

World War Z by Max Brooks, which is not letters but a collection of reports from people who survived the zombie apocalypse.

 

 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple, a compilation of reports, emails, letters, and documents gathered by a 15 year old girl as she searches for her missing mother.

 

 

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, a young adult novel which is a diary written by a companion to a Rapunzel-like character.

 

 

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence, a librarian who writes letters to the books she’s read over the years. This is not a novel, but is hilarious and will have you adding many new titles to your To Be Read list.

 

 

If you’ve never tried an epistolary novel before now’s the time to give it a try, you won’t regret it!

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