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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society » User review

A total charmer of a story, told through letters.

  • May 4, 2011
I had heard people talking about this book ever since it was published--countless people I know had read it and loved it--so I bought it; but then I found myself passing it by on my TBR (to be read) shelf time and time again because I wasn't sure it was my cup of tea (as it turns out, I misunderstood what the book was about from the descriptions I was given). Then I met a new friend and neighbor and she kept at me about it, saying I must read it. FINALLY, after close to two years gathering dust on my shelf, I decided to read it. I am SO glad I did!

This is the story of a closeknit community of homey folks who live on Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between England and France, and Juliet, an author from London, who becomes interested in the story of Guernsey's 5-year occupation by the Germans during World War II. The entire story is told through letters, notes and telegrams--from the Guernsey folks to Juliet and back and from Juliet to her friends and publisher and back.

Some of the Guernsey folks are eccentric, but they are all (save one) good-hearted, warm and welcoming people. They may not be sophisticated, but they are incredibly charming and genuine. The Society from the book's title is a book club they started during the war to keep them entertained, since they were denied any news from the mainland during the 5 years the Germans occupied their beloved island. (The Potato Peel Pie part of the title is a dish invented by one of the Society's members during the war, when food was scarce.)

The authors do a marvelous job of blending deeply tragic events that took place during the war (both on Guernsey and in concentration camps elsewhere) with the charm and humor of the Guernsey people. It is not a depressing war story, though it could have been in another author's hands. It is a story filled with folksy humor, tall tales and a community of loving people who are always there for one another, even in the hardest of times.

You will fall in love with these characters and this enchanted place they call home. Even the story of how the book was finished was so in keeping with spirit of the story itself. The original author, Mary Ann Shaffer, took ill and asked her niece, children's book author Annie Barrows, to finish to story. Ms. Shaffer died in 2008, the year the book was published in hardback. What a wonderful legacy Ms. Shaffer has left for her family...and for all of us.

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May 25, 2011
Excellent review, Sheri! I liked the unique take on the book, letters and all. I need to come back to this one. I never finished it the first time I started it, lol!
More The Guernsey Literary and Pota... reviews
review by . January 17, 2010
The Guernsey Society seems a bit old fashioned
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer is a charming epistolary novel (for those of you who forgot your high school English terms, that means that the book is a series of letters) but perhaps too charming.   In the novel, a young, unmarried British writer named Juliet has found success with a series of newspaper columns during WWII. Now (in 1946) the columns are compiled as a book and she's even more successful. As she searches for a new topic to tackle, …
review by . March 11, 2011
   Okay, that’s definitely a long title. It’s also a perfect title for a perfectly entertaining, intriguing and informative love story, world war II drama, and mystery with a twist. The twist is that the story’s told entirely in letters between the characters. The wonder is it works so perfectly.      A writer looking for a book idea after wartime success finds herself accidentally corresponding with people who’ve lived through the German occupation …
review by . July 10, 2010
  When my mother recommended this book to me, I took a look at the cover quotes and found myself immediately skeptical. Phrases like "New York Times Bestseller" and a recommendation from the author of "Eat Pray Love" don't always lend themselves as a marker of a mindful read.  However, after giving it a chance I was pleasantly surprised. This novel explores the experiences of a collection of  characters in both Guernsey and England and their coping mechanisms …
review by . June 24, 2010
I admit; this was a hard book to get into.  It is written in a series of letters between the main character (Juliette, if I remember right), and her publisher Sydney, plus many others, most of whom are members of a literary society that was formed by an unlikely group of people thrown together by events during WWII, on the Channel Island of Guernsey.  This book has it all: romance, suspense, humor, horror.  Once I got used to the manner of writing, I loved reading how each character …
Quick Tip by . August 09, 2010
Poverty and suffering are AWESOME, apparently. I threw the book into the wall when the author used the word "random" to mean "unexpected," in her faux-period letters, a meaning that emerged in the computer age. I give this book a big fat *fart sound*.
Quick Tip by . July 08, 2010
A book lovers book - I didn't want it to end. My book club loved discussing all of the characters in this one.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Could not get into it. Not sure what the hype is all about.
review by . June 02, 2010
Pros: Literary; entertaining; excellent character development; not formulaic; exquisite audio rendition.     Cons: Irreverent and immoral in places; unrealistic ending; pacing concerns; similar styles among characters.     The Bottom Line: Reading this book will help you discuss both tragedy and whimsy using a British accent--unless you already have one. In that case, this work may prove disappointingly inaccurate.     Dear Readers,     …
review by . May 27, 2010
Sentimental tale
The year is 1946, and British writer Juliet is feeling restless. She wants to write something new but doesn't know what. As luck would have it, she receives a letter from a Guernsey man and a pen-friendship develops. He tells her about the island literary society and its unusual history, and before she knows it she is corresponding with all the members and planning to visit them in person.       Written entirely as a series of letters between Juliet and her friends, this book …
review by . July 23, 2009
I picked this up on a whim and can say that there are not enough words to describe how wonderful this book really is. This is definitnely one of the best books I've read this year.     Set in England and the Channel island of Guernsey immediately following World War II, we meet Juliet Ashton (our protagonist and writer) who suddenly receives a letter from Dawsey Adams (Guernsey dweller) requesting some information on author, Charles Lamb. Thus begins a correspondence that leads …
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Sheri ()
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I have been a customer reviewer on Amazon.com for well over a decade and an Amazon Vine reviewer since the program began. I enjoy writing product reviews that will help customers make a buying decision. … more
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About this book


The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers.(Aug.)
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ISBN-10: 0385340990
ISBN-13: 978-0385340991
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: The Dial Press
Date Published: July 29, 2008
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