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Book Review: Guernsey literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Updated on December 9, 2012
Cover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Cover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: The Synopsis

London, England. January 1946: Juliet Ashton a young writer is just completing a book tour around England, publisising her book of collected essays: Izzy Bickerstaffe Goes to War.

Her publisher is looking to her to produce another book to follow on this latest successful publication. But Juliet has no idea what on earth to write about.

Then she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer on the Channel Island of Guernsey. He happens to own a book once owned by Juliet, a biography of Charles Lamb. He is writing to tell her how he likes the book and in passing he mentions The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

This first letter opens up a world Juliet had known little of. The occupation of one small group of islands by the Nazi's from the summer of 1940 until May 1945. The Channel Islands, only miles from the coast of France had been by-passed by the Great Allied invasion of June 1944, their liberation only came following the final surrender of Germany in 1945.

The letters soon build into a stream as islanders and Juliet talk of the experience of war and the hope of the islanders for the safe return of Elizabeth, a founder member of the Literary Society and the mother of young Kit, a baby raised by the society members in the absence of her mother. Elizabeth disappeared into the Nazi concentration camps after being caught aiding and feeding a Polish death worker who she found starving in the kitchen of a fellow islander.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Personal Review

I very much enjoyed this book.

I recently began a Book Club at my local library and this was the second book read by club members who also loved the story and it left many of us wanting even more.

The book is written as mentioned earlier as a series of letter. As, at the height of the book, there can be up to twenty correspondents writing to Juliet, it is advisable if you have the paper copy of this book to have a pad and pen handy to note the various characters.

I used the audiobook version, which is read by several actors and actresses, including Juliet Mills as Mrs Maugary; a friend and neighbor of Dawsey. The audio version also cleared up some confusion over Dawsey too. Many club members at first thought Dawsey was a female character. It takes some time to find that he is in fact male.

There is a great deal of humor throughout the book which is a nice counter to sometimes horrific stories of life in the Nazi Concentration Camps which unfolds as the story of Elizabeth is traced after the time of her arrest.

One of the funniest parts is the description of how the society was formed, as the result of being caught out after curfew, several islanders are stopped by a German patrol on their way home after a clandestined roast pork dinner.

To cover their double crime, having a unlicensed pig and being out after curfew, they come up with the tale of the literary society and are then forced to buy every book on the island as the German Commandant expresses interest in joining them at their next meeting.

Good Story. Great Book

This book will I believe become a classic.

It takes a little known historical fact. The occupation of the Channel Islands. Then weaves a wonderful, moving and in the end uplifting story around those terrible events.

This book can be read in a few hours. One of our club members read it in just one afternoon.

The story is simple, a writer on a search for a story, a community on a search to reveal their story. They meet and together create some laughs, some tears but all in all happiness.

You should definitely read this book.

CHLD Book Choice of the Year

Our local library book club members voted this book as their favorite book of 2012.

In an almost unanimous vote Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was voted as the book which most members both remembered most fondly and also the book they were most likely to recommend to others.


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    • Jenna Kunc profile image

      Jenna Kunc 5 years ago from Colorado

      This sounds good! I may have to read this.

    • Bretsuki profile image

      William Elliott 5 years ago from California USA

      Hello bredandagnes, thanks for your comment, Come back and let us know if you enjoyed the book.

    • bredandagnes profile image

      bredandagnes 5 years ago from Ireland

      Sounds great.I'm going straight out to get this book!

    • Bretsuki profile image

      William Elliott 5 years ago from California USA

      Thank you Michele for taking the time to comment.

      I am sure that you will enjoy this book. It is a wonderful story, if you want to look into this period of European history, this book even caught my attention as an history major and also an ex-patriat Englishman.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Thank you for this hub. I am going to look for this book. I didn't know about the Channel Islands. My grandparents on my mother's side of the family had left France because of Hitler, so this will be an interesting book. Thumbs up for this hub.

    • Bretsuki profile image

      William Elliott 5 years ago from California USA

      Thank you for your comment Brainy Bunny. As you say this story sheds light on a little known part of World War Two history, the occupation of the Channel Islands.

      Sadly this is the only book by Mary Ann Shaffer, who unfortunately died shortly before the final publication of the book, and this was her only novel.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      This isn't the type of book I normally read, but a friend lent it to me and I LOVED it. It was gentle and funny, and it alerted me to a footnote in history of which I had been previously unaware--the occupation of the Channel Islands. Thanks for writing this hub -- the author deserves the attention.

    • Bretsuki profile image

      William Elliott 5 years ago from California USA

      Hello cloverleafarm, yes a wonderful book. I have read it twice too in recent weeks too. First just to see what it was about, then for my book club, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

      It was as good the second time as the first.

      Thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      I LOVE this book. I read it in just 24 hours. I couldn't put it down. I just read it again too.