ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

For Your Reading Pleasure: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Updated on November 11, 2014

The Value of a Good Letter

Prior to the age of email and the internet, journals and diaries and letters were the means for average people to communicate with each other over time and/or distance. Not quick, ill-conceived digital missives, these physical records provide a glimpse into the soul of the writer, the means for the reader to separate the wheat of a spirit from the chaff of the writer's body.

Many famous books have been written in an epistolary style - a series of letters and/or journals that form the building blocks of plot, motivation, and action: Bram Stoker's Dracula, Bridget Jones' Diary, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Uncommon Valour to name a few (for a more complete list and explanation of the form, click here).

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a beautiful example of epistolary style where the voice and character of each of more-than-a-dozen separate letter writers sing from every page.

Licensed through
Licensed through

What It's About

In 1946, Britain has just come through a devastating war. Much of London is in rubble. Food and other essentials are in short supply. To help its population cope, local newspapers often print sunny editorials to boost morale.

As a writer of such fluff, Juliet Ashton is tired of it. She herself has suffered (her apartment and belongings destroyed in one of the bombings), is unsure of her current romantic relationship, and wants to produce more meaningful work. In the midst of trying to sort out her life, Juliet begins a fortuitous correspondence with a farmer from the isle of Guernsey -- one of the British-owned islands in the English Channel occupied by the Nazis for several years during the war.

As the frequency and depth of the letters between Juliet and the farmer Dawson increase, other voices are added to the island's war history as Dawson encourages his fellow islanders to write their stories for Juliet. What emerges is a tale of strength and humor mustered by the people of Guernsey in the face of brutality and starvation during the Nazi occupation.

Licensed through
Licensed through

What Makes It A Good Story

The voices. The voices that sing from each letter of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society make the novel delightful. Each voice is unique (and uniquely British), their stories revealing and moving. Juliet is inspired to learn more about her fellow correspondents -- and the reader is inspired as well by their humor and honesty.

Even when Juliet temporarily moves to the island to meet the people whose letters have enthralled her, several of the islanders continue to write, finding it easier to write of a tragedy than to speak of it. Here are a people who have experienced great deprivation and have survived with their wits and their wit intact.

Licensed courtesy of
Licensed courtesy of

What Makes It A 5-Star Read

Having read a few novels of the epistolary variety, I often find them dry and fragmented. Not so The Guernsey Litarary and Potato Peel Pie Society, where Ms. Barrows and Ms. Shaffer weave the voices of each character into a stunning song.

The book has been criticized (by The Rocky Mountain News) as treating a serious subject with a lighthearted tone and characterization. However, I found this same tone crucial to understanding how people endure in hard times and cope with great suffering. The Guernsey islanders affirm and nourish themselves and each other with every letter.

Paperback: 290 pages

Publisher: Dial Press (May 5, 2009)

Language: English

Books by Annie Barrows

Ms. Barrows' writing partner on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, passed away in February of 2008 - more than a year before the novel was published. On her own, Ms. Barrow has written the other novels listed here.

Have You Read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"? - ...and, if so, what did you think?

Authors Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
Authors Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

Have You Read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"?

See results

Please let me know you visited

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • dbitterman profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @Diana Wenzel: What I found amazing in this book, and something I can't quite figure out how they did, was to have each letter so unique with respect to voice. It was amazing. A great read. Thank you for coming by.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      8 years ago from Colorado

      Sounds like my kind of book. I've often imagined writing an epistolary style book. I can understand why some of those islanders continued to write, rather than speak, their experiences. Letter writing can offer up a more liberating voice or channel of communication.

    • dbitterman profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @lgOlson: The title is a mouthful, but it worth the read! Thank you for stopping by.

    • lgOlson profile image

      L Olson 

      8 years ago from Northern Arizona

      After reading your article, I would definitely like to read this book, and might not have without your synopsis. Thanks!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is one book I really enjoyed.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)