Saturday, December 21, 2013

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

The more I read about the Second World War, the more I am so thankful that it was over and can only hope and pray it will never be repeated anywhere ever again on that scale! I never liked watching war movies, neither reading the graphic detail, still don't, since the cruelty, suffering, hardships and horror are way too much to handle for me personally. So many millions of books were written about it that the actual message gets lost in the apathy resulting from too much information over a too long period of time. But then I come across a an epistolary novel such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and I am once again mesmerized by the immensity of the human spirit, the need to survive, and the determination to succeed under appalling circumstances after the devastating war.

The letters between Juliet Ashton and the members of the society got me hooked to the book since the first "Dear Sidney" flowed from the pages. First off, it was like being invited into someone's personal space, mind, life, by being able to read their personal letters.

Secondly, the story is based on old fashioned paper letters which do not hail the same excitement or even are in fashion anymore in our modern world and the reader is immediately drawn into the nostalgia of a romantic art that disappeared almost completely.

The charm, as well as magic of the book being written in a constant flow of letters keeps the reader mesmerized. The characters introduce themselves through their own thoughts they shared with the writer in their letters to her. Juliet needed a fresh idea for her new book and accidentally receives a letter from the Guernsey island from a man who can hardly express himself verbally(she would later find out), yet writes detailed letters.

The Literary Society on the Guernsey island saved people's sanity in many ways during the German occupation when Elizabeth, the island's own earth angel(in modern terms she would be described as a people's pleaser) lied the society into existence. The society, which was afterwards forced to become functional, was like a key opening up the people's slumbering personalities when unlikely people were forced to read books, never realizing what an effect it would have on each person's life.

Another thought which struck me while reading how the islanders were forced by hunger and dire circumstances to burn their own wooden furniture, beloved books, even the banisters in their homes to survive the Occupation, was how the effect on the world is slowly repeating itself with the deforestation of the planet and what an effect it will ultimately have on people's lives. If there is one message I would like to take from the book it will be to plant more trees. I have not planted enough! It will also be in honor of those people who suffered severely in the wars of the world. Where there is war, nature is paying a dire price. Where there is peace the trees start growing again and the flowers come back. Earth heals itself like the human spirit gets healed by time.

The wit in the book is refreshing, the drama exhilarating and the narrative finishes off every issue. Compared to other war novels, it is a kind of 'light' read, but not too cheesy to be just another romantic novel for the light-brained. It has some meat to the story.

The fictional characters are ordinary human beings, even the male hero is an ordinary quiet man. It's based on real-life characters in real-life circumstances - people we all recognize as our families, friends and neighbors - no frills no fuzz, no fantasy or unrealistic heroes.

The book includes love, romance and everything needed to keep female readers(especially) interested, but surprisingly does not need to fall into the sex trap to make it acceptable to prospective buyers. The story itself is strong enough to guarantee the best seller status and deserves it. I give it four stars for excellent research, the delightful wit, as well as the dignity and respect it shows towards the more intelligent readers. If it was only a romantic novel, I would have dropped it after page three, but I finished it and loved every moment. It was worth it.


It's 1946 and Juliet Ashton can't think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey - by chance, he's acquired a book that once belonged to her - and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it's not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

Anne Shaffer
Mary Ann Shaffer worked as an editor, a librarian, and in bookshops. Her life-long dream was to someday write her own book and publish it. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel. Unfortunately, she became very ill with cancer and so she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, the author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean, as well as The Magic Half, to help her finish the book. Mary Ann Shaffer died in February 2008, a few months before her first novel was published.

Annie Barrows is the enormously talented author of many acclaimed books including he Ivy + Bean series, The Magic Half, and the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. She has also written non-fiction books under the pen name Ann Fiery. Annie’s latest book in the Ivy + Bean series is No News Is Good News. She worked for years as an editor until she decided to write children’s books like the ones she loved growing up. Her dedicated fans are eternally grateful she decided to pursue her dream. (Information source)


Genres: Historical fiction, Second World World, Island Guernsey, Drama, Community, Romance, Suspense
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, Kindle, Nook, Audio, CD, Audiobook,
Number of Pages: 257
Publishing date: May 10, 2009
Edition Language: English
ISBN: 0747596689
ASIN: B002R88G4U
Purchase links:  Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes& Noble



  1. I agree that some novels on war can be really heavy. The last few I tried to read I ended up not finishing. New follower here btw :)

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I am so pleased. I have been following you from the Booksblog.ning group. Thanks for following me back.