"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Copyright:  2008
Publishers:  Random House
Paperback Edition:  Dial Press Trade Paperbacks (2009)
Pages:  290
ISBN 9780385341004
Includes:  map, Afterword, Questions and Topics for Discussion


"January 1946:  Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger; a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name."  (from the back cover)

Read an excerpt.

My Review:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was suggested by a fellow book club member as our October book of the month and was universally accepted.  The novel was started by Mary Ann Shaffer who travelled to Guernsey to explore the possibilities of a book but before she could finish the edits requested by her publisher, she became too ill to complete the task.  Fortunately for all, her niece Annie Barrows (author of the children's series Ivy and Bean) took over where her aunt left off with the finishing touches that brought the book to publication.

The cast of characters is plenty, 20 in all, each contributing to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society through letters, one to another.  While this is an unusual format for a novel, May Ann Shaffer utilizes it incredibly well.  Through this "voyeurism" by the reader, we glimpse the lives of these characters without pomp and ceremony.  Letters and telegrams reveal with unveiled emotions the circumstances the towns people of Guernsey endured during the occupation of the Germans of their lovely island during World War II.

The society begins one night as a hidden pig is slaughtered and friends are gathered together in a rare feast which incidentally puts them in peril as they breach curfew.  Thanks to the quick wit of Elizabeth, it is explained to the soldiers they come upon in the night that they have just left a meeting of The Guernsey Literary Society.  Fortunately one amongst the soldiers is an avid reader and lets them off.  The alibi is a ruse but it must not be discovered to be so, so the next morning they gather all the books they can to make it legitimate lest they should receive a visit from the Germans.  Later the Potato Peel Pie is incorporated by a member of this book club as a treat shared at a meeting. Not terribly tasty, but when potatoes are available and little else a certain amount of ingenuity is required.

The story evolves from here with the introduction of London reporter Juliet Ashton who receives the first letter from a member of the literary society inquiring about acquiring books by Charles Lamb, one of which he had the good fortune of new ownership.  Inscribed inside is Juliet's name.  Further correspondence peaks Juliet's curiosity about Guernsey, the occupation thereof by the Germans and the quaint folks who reside there.  One thing leads to another and, amidst romantic suitors, a missing prisoner of war, a child, and quirky situations, Juliet falls in love with Guernsey and its residents.  The reader does as well.  It can't be helped.  We find new friends in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and as we draw near the end, it is with regret that we must say good-bye.  That, dear readers, is what the best books are made of.

Humourous and heart warming, book lovers will adore The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The author's site.


  1. Hey, you stated in a much more direct way what I was trying to communicate, thanks, I will recommend your site to my friends.

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  2. Here's a link to an outstanding site that maps the island of Guernsey to better follow the setting of the novel: google maps.

  3. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed reading as much as I did the audiobook. The storyline lends itself beautifully to an audiobook. Can't wait to see the movie.


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