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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society–comeback from World War II

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I approach epistolary fiction with a bit of trepidation. Can a story really be told effectively through a series of letters? In the case of the unusually named The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, that is probably the best way to relate the events of the Nazi occupation of Guernsey and to present the characters and how the war affected them.

Juliet Ashton is a budding author with one successful book based on a column she wrote. Her publisher, Sidney, and his younger sister, Sophie, are friends of Juliet; their letters are part of the correspondence that moves the story along. The heart of this tale begins when a letter finds its way to Juliet in London from Guernsey where Dawsey Adams has bought a book by Charles Lamb with her name and address. Dawsey seeks more books by Lamb as well as information about him. Their correspondence leads to a discussion of the local book club which began during the Nazi Occupation.

Most of the book club characters are quite likable and work together because of, or in spite of, their idiosyncrasies and the hardships they have endured. They welcome the opportunity to share their stories with Juliet for potential publication. They are quite open to her personally as well. Juliet grows as a writer, her maternal instincts emerge, and she shows strength of character as she discovers what is important to her.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is well-written with detailed settings and empathy for the characters. It is both a gentle and a strong book and gives a fair depiction of Nazi soldiers, most of whom suffer deprivation in Guernsey along with the locals. Some Nazis are depicted as brutal and a few as humane. Some citizens are supportive of each other and a few are treacherous. The accounts also included Todt slaves, brought in by the Germans. They suffer the most in this book. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has deservedly caused a lot of buzz among readers and has been made into a movie.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Publication: July 29, 2008—Dial Press

Memorable Lines:

I turned to a man sitting against a fence nearby and called out “We’re saved! It’s the British!” Then I saw he was dead. He had only missed it by minutes. I sat down in the mud and sobbed as though he’d been my best friend.

All those people I’ve come to know and even love a little, waiting to see—me. And I, without any paper to hide behind….I have become better at writing than living…On the page, I’m perfectly charming, but that’s just a trick I learned. It has nothing to do with me.

Dawsey was seeing to my bags and making sure that Kit didn’t fall off the pier and generally making himself useful. I began to see that this is what he does—and that everyone depends upon him to do it.


17 Comments

  1. I’m always amazed by epistolary novels. How hard it must be to create these well-rounded characters and situations without the most common storytelling techniques. If you want to give another one a chance, I highly recommend Dear Rosie Hughes be Melanie Hudson—it still has my heart all these years later. Fantastic review, as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WendyW says:

    I’ve seen the movie, but haven’t read this book yet. It’s on my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LA says:

    I love this book

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nancy says:

    I didn’t finish your review as I am reading this right now. I am really enjoying it so far.
    Side note… this past Spring we were in Guernsey…it’s a beautiful place!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      I don’t think there were any spoilers, but I understand your not wanting to read the review. I probably had read that you went to Guernsey, but other than enjoying your post and pictures, it would just have been a place on the map that I hadn’t been to. Now I would love to go there!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jenna says:

    I read this book years ago and really enjoyed it~ it does have quite the unusual name!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the name of this one!

    Ash @ Essentially Ash

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gretchen says:

    I loved this book when I read it several years ago. I have also seen the movie. The movie was very well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Carla says:

    I also find epistolary books hit or miss, Linda. This one was definitely a hit. I also saw the movie and while it was good, the book is better.

    Liked by 1 person

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