This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This book came to me by my BFF Cheryl. She had started her own book club and mentioned that this was their first book so she loaned me the library book she had of it. I was torn as I have so many that I want to read *right now*: my two book club choices for this month and next, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sits by my bed, and those darn Harry Potter books.

But this one was about 270 pages so I thought it could be a quick read. And it was, as it is a book filled with letters that told the story.

I really enjoyed this as I have a newfound appreciation for fiction based on history. And in this story, the reader learns about The Occupation of the Channel Islands, particularly Guernsey, during WWII.

The story is centered around Juliet Ashton, an author/columnist based in London, who exchanges letters with several folks. It is quite amazing, how the letter writing goes "viral" and she ends up writing to so many people. But the letter writing amongst all her companions tell this great story. It is lovely, to say the least.

Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey, regarding a book he has that had had her name and address printed on the cover. He had read selected essays of Charles Lamb and was so enamored by these essays that he wrote Juliet for more information about Charles Lamb. And so begins the introduction of Juliet to the members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

We find out that the literary society came as a ruse when the (now) members were having a secret dinner, hiding from the Germans, who had control of all the food, living quarters, etc. while occupying the Channel Islands. The society then were allowed to meet and thus, they started reading books and discussing them.

The potato peel pie came to be since all they truly had to eat were potatoes:
Since there was scant butter, less flour, and no sugar to spare on Guernsey then, Will concocted a potato peel pie: mashed potatoes for filling, strained beets for sweetness, and potato peelings for crust.

Juliet eventually visits the island with a lot of fanfare, through all the correspondence she had with several members of the literary society.

It's a really sweet novel and there is a side story as to the author, Mary Ann Shaffer, who became too ill to finish her novel and her neice, Annie Barrows managed to step in and finish it for her.

The one thing that bothered me about this was how quickly the letters made it to the recipients. It isn't even that fast *today* but the letters would be dated a day apart, responding to the previous letters. I had to let that go and take a step out of reality.

Otherwise, a very good book that has now made me interested in reading more about the facts of The Occupation in the Channel Islands, and what London endured during WWII.


  1. That was a lovely review! "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" has brought long-overdue attention to the Channel Islands Occupation. I wonder if you would like to look at my book, "War on the Margins." It takes place on the Island of Jersey during the German occupation (Yes, I inadvertently wrote the "prequel" to the Guernsey book). The Surrealist artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore were Resistance propagandists on the Island, and figure prominently. It is available as an e-book in the UK and US on Amazon. Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a copy for review.

  2. Hi Libby!
    Thank you so much for your comment. I will definitely love to read your book. I am completely enamored with Guernsey and The Channel Islands, with regard to their position within WWII. I have already read about how England pretty much left the islands to its own devices! I was wondering what other books I could read that wouldn't be, um, what are the words? Too textbook, that could help me learn more about what England and The Channel Islands went through during WWII.

    I will look for your book!! THANK YOU!!