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If You Loved The Guernsay Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society Don’t Read Any Further. I’m About To Ruin It For You.

Everyone has been agog over the debut novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I’ve noticed many of you in Blog World have read it and loved it. I have friends (and a sister) who have recommended it. I finally picked it up.

And I hate it.

Oh. It is a lovely story. It has lovely writing. It’s just that I’ve read it before.

Has anyone out there read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff? No? A charming, engaging, wonderful novel first published in 1970. It was then re-created for stage and film, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. (But don’t see the film. As wonderful as it is, as wonderful as Bancroft and Hopkins are – the book is so much better.)

The similarities between these two novels is jarring. Distracting, even. So much so, that I’m beginning to resent Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows for borrowing so much from a book so loved. A book published a mere 40 years ago. (Did I just say ‘mere’? Oh, man, am I old!)

Similar plots. Universal themes. I totally get that authors borrow from the classics. But they borrow the “boy meets girl, girl plays hard to get, boy wins girl in the end” kinds of plots. Or the universal themes of love conquering all or good beating out evil. The general idea. Not specifics.

Here. I’ll show you what I mean.

84 Charing Cross Road – post World War II, focuses on a time period of lacking, wanting and re-building, a main character who is an outspoken, female accomplished writer, a protagonist who is so inspired by the people on the other end of the postal line that her life is changed forever, written in correspondence style between (mainly) a woman and a man with an underlying hint that they feel a bit more than a platonic kinship, they are brought together based on their love of books, they share the difficulties of their lives, they try to help each other, they attempt to meet.

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – post World War II, focuses on a time period of lacking, wanting and re-building, a main character who is an outspoken, female accomplished writer, a protagonist who is so inspired by the people on the other end of the postal line that her life is changed forever, written in correspondence style between (mainly) a woman and a man with an underlying hint that they feel a bit more than a platonic kinship, they are brought together based on their love of books, they share the difficulties of their lives, they try to help each other, they attempt to meet. (embarrassing note: I did not think to copy and paste. I actually re-typed the entire description. What an idiot I am. Maybe you shouldn’t listen to me, after all.)

See any similarities?

Oh, sure. There are differences. But not enough to keep me reading. I’m so annoyed at the flagrant plagiarism of a style/content/idea – I just can’t. And I am surprised that I’m the only one to think so.

Ahhhh, but I’m not.

“But most distressing of all, it borrows heavily from the truly original style and humor of 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.” Amazon review.

And there are many other reviews out there that point to this similarity (just not quite as negatively as I do): “with an obvious wink to the classic 84 Charing Cross Road“, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is going to be this year’s 84, Charing Cross Road” (gag me), “marvelous debut…. Reminiscent of Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road” (gag me with spoon, reminiscent?!), “Told in epistolary form this book is comparable to 84 Charing Cross Road“, “Comparisons to 84, Charing Cross Road are common and also well-deserved” – You get the point.

If you haven’t read 84 Charing Cross Road and you never will, then The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will be a wonderful book. But if you’ve read TGLAPPPS and now you’re intrigued and want to read 84 Charing Cross Road? I’m afraid you may be disappointed. And that is sad. Because 84 Charing Cross Road was here first.

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