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

Posted April 29, 2014 by Fizzy Pop in Annie Barrows, book review, Fizzy Pop, Fizzy Pop Collection, historical fiction, Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society / 0 Comments

 “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was really interesting and engaging to read.  I finished in two days, which is statistically longer than normal for my reading but with life being chaos was really pretty quickly.  It dealt with the Channel Islands of England, particularly the island of Guernsey and the German Occupation during World War II.  An era and historical event I knew next to nothing about.  And I’ll digress here for a minute because, well I can.  In school each year in history classes you always start at the beginning.  I’ve studied the Revolutionary War multiple times throughout my education.  A couple of times we made it all the way to the Civil War but never progressed past that.  My knowledge of anything in the 20th century is strictly from reading and people who lived it. A large part of me doesn’t believe that my experiences in learning history was complete or accurate.  I feel retaught the same things and never exposed to the more recent yet just as important, events. There are so many things that are a part of our history, here in the US and the World, that I’ve yet had the opportunity to learn about.  OK, digression over. 

This book is written in the form of letters to and from various characters in the story.  I like the idea as a concept.  It reads well as a concept.  However there is also a lot of ways this approach can go wrong, and did.  If you were to include every letter of the story it would be a series and not a stand alone book.  However, by not including more letters to the relevance it became trite.  One character apparently sends another character a package.  This is acknowledged in the followup letter from the recipient along with a list of what was actually sent.  As if the sender does not know what they were sending?  But then in other places short notes were sent back and forth that really had less bearing on the story itself. 

As a novel this was an engaging story about, to me, a not previously known event in recent history.  As a historical book it left a lot to be desired as it focused in on the antics and personality of one character.  Not really telling as much historical information as I was looking forward to reading.  As a novel I enjoyed the characters and the way they developed.  I think the hardest part was that each one seemed the same in writing.  There was not differentiation in their writing styles.  Though as I read their letters, in my head, I read it as I imagined they would speak it due to the way the characters personalities and attitudes were developed. 

I gave this book three stars mostly because well… I think there were areas that needed to be detailed better.  I think the writing should have matched the way the character were developed more.  And I feel like there were key letters not included while there were unessential letters in their place.  I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to others who enjoy historical fiction or are interested in a different kind of story that would make a good weekend read.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

About Marry Ann Shaffer

Mary Ann Shaffer was an American writer, editor, librarian, and a bookshop worker. She is noted for her posthumously published work The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which she wrote with her niece, Annie Barrows.

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About Annie Barrows

Annie Barrows is an American editor and author. She is best known for the Ivy and Bean series of children’s books, but she has written several other books for adult readers as well. Barrows was the second of two girls

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