The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Book rating: 05 Paperback Random House Reader's Circle

By (author) Mary Ann Shaffer, By (author) Annie Barrows

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  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell
  • Format: Paperback | 290 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 200mm x 20mm | 222g
  • Publication date: 9 May 2009
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0385341008
  • ISBN 13: 9780385341004
  • Illustrations note: maps
  • Sales rank: 5,870

Product description

#1 "NEW YORK TIMES "BESTSELLER ""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. "From the Hardcover edition."

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Author information

Mary Ann Shaffer who passed away in February 2008, worked as an editor, librarian, and in bookshops. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel.

Customer reviews

By Karielle 04 Mar 2013 5

If this review and the promise of exquisite scenery, intelligent conversation, wry flirtations, and heartening nostalgia found within the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society won't convince you to give the book a try, I don't know what will.

Told completely in descriptive letters, amusing telegrams, and exclusive marginal notes, this modern British classic details the lives and events of post-World War II civilians, particularly in bomb-raided London and the recently liberated Channel Islands. The backdrop is extraordinarily well set, with eye-opening and little-known flashes of war terror mingled with depressing, but rich details of Guernsey's isolation under the prolonged German occupation during the war (which lasted until 1945). Both the tempestuous German reign and the brief evocations of the Belsen concentration camps are horrific, but they contrast magnificently with the gorgeous portraits of post-war Guernsey.

Dawsey Adams finds the name and address of budding war commentator and novelist, Juliet Ashton, in a book he's acquired secondhand, and seeing that the particular title-a Charles Lamb classic-is well worn, he decides to write her expressing his admiration for the author and complimenting her taste. He doesn't expect Juliet to respond-she doesn't know who he is, after all-but with her spirit and partiality towards literature, she does-enthusiastically. And thus they embark on an exciting, sparkling correspondence.

Shaffer has breathed life into her delightful, vivid cast of characters. Dawsey, Sidney, Isola, Susan, the late Elizabeth, and young Kit-I fell in love with all of them! They're simply enchanting... such a diverse, memorable group. I want to see more like them in fiction, and frankly, more like them in real life!

Juliet is so my favorite. Rebellious, lovable, and charismatic, she marches to her own drum and has a satirical approach to everything. She's the perfect blend of compassion, angst, and irony, and I absolutely loved her as well. She may, from the viewpoints of her elders, have misplaced priorities and be rather reckless with her actions, but she is fiercely stubborn-fiercely passionate-and that's what makes her such a sensational person.

When introduced to a magical literary community, Juliet is able to free her inhibitions and revel in what she knows best and devotes to the most: books. She brings out the book lover in all of us, and her engagement with the Society poignantly demonstrates the marvelous escapism of books. Guided by the wisdom of literary heros like Austen and Lamb, her and the other members' lives, once crossed, will be changed forever. This book is perfect for those who love and are awed by the power of the written word-the power it has to bring people together.

I desperately clung on to every word; stylistically and structurally, not one sentence is out of place. With smooth narration and keen insight, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful escape with luscious facets of history and immaculate observations that will immerses readers completely. A modern adaptation of a time-revered romance, it has the witticisms and hopeful predictability that is universally reminiscent in any era and any upbringing.

Here is a book to read again and again, and to cherish for a long time to come. It isn't just about the wonder of reading and friendship; it's about finding light in wartime, finding peace in destruction. It's about true love-true identity-and it delivers a quintessential message about humanity that we all ought to keep in mind: that in love, sometimes pride is a far, far bigger crime than prejudice.

Pros: Highly evocative in setting // Bright, endearing characters that I want to take home with me // Beautifully written, from multiple vibrant perspectives // Quaint British tone-my favorite! // Humorous // Memorable // Starry and stunningly romantic // Will appeal even to those who don't like historical novels; buoyant and chronicled, rather than dense and dull // Shrewd in emotional bearing // Heart-warming; a 100% feel-good read

Cons: The first few pages are a bit difficult to follow because you don't know who's who, but gradual character descriptions clear this up immediately // It ended!!!!

Love: "We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us."

Verdict: The miraculous effect of arts and culture, and the appreciation of literature and storytelling-and they way they both shape us humans-is luminously presented in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Expressive, magical, and utterly remarkable, this epistolary narrative is, in one breath, charming with sharp penetration and irresistible perspective. In between the suppression of grief-struck war memories and slow recuperation, is a beautifully refreshing, dazzling, and hopeful reminder that in stories-on paper and in pen-people live and love on. In Juliet's own words: "The war is now the story of our lives, and there's no denying it." So too with this novel.

Rating: 10 out of 10 hearts: I'm speechless; this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by TripFiction in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!).

By Pamela Anne Briant 16 Sep 2010 5

An absolutely delightful book to read. The various personalities and characters are vividly portrayed in letters across the channel. The story is set in 1946, one year post WWII in both London and Guernsey. The German occupation of Guernsey and how it touched the people of Guernsey is relayed in anecdotal style that shows how people can somehow muster up humour and companionship in the most dire situations. The story of how the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was formed is just the beginning of a wonderful tale. I didn't want this book to end. I was rewarded by reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book that confirmed that I was definitely not alone in the pleasure this book gave me and the final words by Annie Barrows in my April 2009 edition sum it up beautifully.

By Nicola Mansfield 10 Jul 2010 5

Reason for Reading: I've wanted to read this since the minute it came out! The title is the first thing that grabbed my interest then of course all the positive reviews. Somehow the book just kept getting pushed further down my tbr pile until finally it rose to the top when it was randomly selected as my final book for the Random Reading Challenge.

I'll keep this review short since there are hundreds, make that thousands of reviews already online. I feel like I may be the last book blogger to read this book! As anyone who reads my reviews regularly might have guessed: how could I not have absolutely loved it! Everything I enjoy in this type of book is present here, historical fiction written as a collection of letters with a cast of eccentric characters. Perfection! I just love epistolary novels and they read so fast it is almost impossible to put the book down. Each and every single character was a dear and getting to know them through someone's letters somehow seems so personal and insightful. I loved everyone though I must say Dawsey and Isola were my favourites.

As to the historical content, while the book takes place one year after the war it often feels to be in the here and now as the letters are full of reminiscences of wartime experiences. I must say that even with all my reading of World War II, I had not known that the Channel Islands had been occupied. It didn't surprise me, tactically I can understand how the situation happened, but I'm surprised it has never been mentioned in my previous reading. It was an eye-opener for me and I'm now quite interested in finding out more about the occupation and the experiences of people from different points of view.

A delightful little book, that is a quick read with dramatic, tragic, romantic and comedic moments to be found throughout. A truly beautiful book not to be missed!

Review quote

"I can't remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one, a world so vivid that I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren't my actual friends and neighbors. Treat yourself to this book please--I can't recommend it highly enough."--Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love" "Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have written a wondrous, delightful, poignant book-- part Jane Austen, part history lesson. The letters in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society aren't addressed to you, but they are meant for you. It's a book everyone should read. An absolute treasure."--Sarah Addison Allen, author of Garden Spells "A jewel...Poignant and keenly observed...A small masterpiece about love, war and the immeasurable sustenance to be found in good books and good friends."--"People" "It's tempting to throw around terms like 'gem' when reading a book like this. But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is not precious...This is a book for firesides or long train rides. It's a charming and timeless as the novels for which its characters profess their love."--"San Francisco Chronicle Book Review ""A book-lover's delight, an implicit and sometimes explicit paean to all things literary."--"Chicago Sun-Times" " ""I've never wanted to join a [book] club as desperately as I did while reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.... [The novel] is a labor of love, and it shows on almost every page."-Yvonne Zipp, "Christian Science Monitor " "As the letters unfold, Juliet--and we readers--learn the little-known history of German occupation of Guernsey. We come to know the brave and endearing people who survived the hardships--and a few who did not....In addition to a fine story, this delightful book offers affirming messages about some of the most enduring forces in life--the power of the written word, the strength of the human spirit and the value of relationships, even unexpected ones."--"Winston Salem Journal" "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a sweet, sentimental paean to books and those who love them.... It affirms the power of books to nourish people enduring hard times."--"Washington Post Book World" " ""Here's who will love this book: anyone who nods in profound agreement with the statement, "Reading keeps you from going gaga." The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delight. Tart, insightful and fun."--Mary Doria Russell, author of "The Sparrow, A Thread of Grace and Dreamers of the Day" "[A] marvelous debut.... Reminiscent of Helene Hanff's" 84 Charing Cross Road," this is a warm, funny, tender, and thoroughly entertaining celebration of the power of the written word."--"Library Journal " "Charming.... [Heroine] Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life--as readers will."--"Publishers Weekly ""[ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is] a nifty little cloth whose warp is bibliophilia and whose weft is Anglophilia.... I could not put the book down. I have recommended it to all my friends."--Erica Marcus, "Newsday " " A poignant, funny novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.... This one is a treat."--"Boston Globe " "A sure winner.... Elizabeth and Juliet are appealingly reminiscent of game but gutsy '40s movie heroines."--"Kirkus Reviews" "Fast, fresh.... A perfect novel for adaptation by Masterpiece Theater."--"Santa Cruz Sentinel" "Warm, life-affirming prose ... an ideal choice for book groups, and also for individual readers."--"St. Petersburg Times ""Delightful ... One of those joyful books that celebrates how reading brings people together."--"New Orleans Times-Picayune" "A book lover's delight, an implicit and sometimes explicit paean to all things literary." --"Chicago Sun-Times " "I've never wanted to join a club so desperately as I did while reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societ."."..[The novel] is a labor of love and it shows on almost every page." --"Christian Science Monitor "