- Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
- Printed Pages: 274
- Publish Year: 2008 (The Dial Press)
- Recommended For: Something different, bucolic scenery, a vision of history, a unique style, flavorful characters, something to read in one or two days.
First Lines: “8th January, 1946… Dear Sidney, Susan Scott is a wonder. We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food.”
There’s more to love about this book than just its unique title. Written by the late Mary Ann Shaffer, with the help of her niece Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of those books I simply couldn’t put down. Lovable (and loathsome) characters, a quaint setting, and a beautifully-unique presentation make this historical fiction a worthwhile read.
The book is written as a series of letters (and a few telegrams) both to and from the protagonist, the writer Juliet Ashton. Juliet had earned some success as a writer thanks to her humorous columns published during the Second World War. She’s quite unsure how to handle her success and struggles to come up with an idea for her next publication. A letter from a stranger, a man named Dawsey Adams from the Channel Islands, plants the tiniest seed of an idea in Juliet’s head, setting the 32-year-old writer off on a project that will completely transform her life.
This historical fiction recounts some of the horrors perpetrated by the Germans during World War II, and exposes the effects of those tragic acts of savagery. The story doesn’t dwell on the dreadful however; it uplifts the reader more than it depresses.
When I first read about the book, I worried that the epistolary form and multitude of characters would be cumbersome to keep track of; I was pleasantly surprised to the contrary. The book reads fast and each character remains warm in your memory. If I were to have one critique, it would be that the character voices weren’t as distinct as I feel they should be.
“Now, about Markham V. Reynolds (Junior). Your questions regarding that gentleman are very delicate, very subtle, very much like being smacked in the head with a mallet.”
“In a good mood, I call my hair Chestnut with Gold Glints. In a bad mood, I call it mousy brown.”
“I sat; arms crossed, hands tucked under my armpits, glaring like a molting eagle, looking around for someone to hate.”
“If I were ever to fall off a horse, it would be lovely to be picked up by Mark, but I don’t think I’m likely to fall off a horse any time soon.”
My rating: 4/5 – Easy to read, transported me to a different place during a different time, made me sad but then made me happy, quirky in a good way.
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