Sadly every book has to end *sigh* – “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”

October 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm 4 comments

Cover of "The Guernsey Literary and Potat...

Cover via Amazon

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, Published 2008

“‘Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done, to have advanced true friends?’ It isn’t.”

I loved this beautiful, heart-wrenching book.  It is one of the books that when you read the last page you kind of sigh and say “oh no, it’s over.” Don’t let the name of the book put you off, it sounds trite but it is significant and important to the story.

This book is set in 1946, written in the form of letters between the characters in the book. Most of the letters are from Juliet, a writer who just lived through WWII in London.  She spent the war writing articles about her war-time experiences that were published by a newspaper, though she began her writing years before by publishing a biography about Anne Bronte (not necessarily a best-seller).  While trying to come up with her next book idea, Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey, a farmer who lives on Guernsey island.  Dawsey had come across a  collection of Charles Lamb‘s works that had Juliet’s name and address in the front cover. Their written correspondence starts as an attempt by Dawsey to get more writing about or by Charles Lamb.  But as their correspondence continues, Juliet begins to discover that Dawsey and his neighbors on Guernsey are not just quirky enjoyable characters but that they suffered extreme hardship during the German occupation.  She also discovers her next book topic – the occupation of Guernsey and how it affected the people.

Juliet begins receiving letters from the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society about their experiences during the occupation.  It becomes so engaging that Juliet eventually goes to Guernsey to meet the people and do more research for her book.  She becomes enchanted by the island and the people, her book becomes her personal labor of love for the people she comes to love.  Through all of this, Juliet also begins to heal from her war experiences and all of the characters begin to rebuild their lives together.

There are many things that I loved about the book. I was afraid that I would get annoyed that the entire book was letters between the characters but the authors do an amazing job with this technique and now I can’t imagine this book would work any other way. The characters are beautifully reflected in the books they love which is a great commentary on the importance of literature in who we are and who we become.  I also knew nothing about Guernsey, let alone the German occupation of the island during WWII. Learning this history was heartbreaking but is written with such a light touch that it still somehow makes the reader focus on the beauty of life more than the tragedy.  The characters, if you over think it, can seem one dimensional but they are still fun and people you wish you knew. As for me, I seriously wanted to live inside this book and that doesn’t happen very often. When it does happen it is always sad when it is over.

Channel Islands, Guernsey, Cobo

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Entry filed under: October 2011 reads. Tags: , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ClaireMcA  |  October 31, 2011 at 3:40 am

    Loved this book and bought it as a gift for many people, believing it has widespread appeal.

    I even had one of my students buying the french version and she changed her holiday plans and went to Guernsey instead of Jersey, inspired by the book and keen to practice speaking english.

    Through her I discovered that Victor Hugo also lived there, it is possible to visit his home on the island – she convinced me to read ‘Ninety Three’ by Victor Hugo before we went to see the french play, quite a challenge but definitely helped in understanding the play.

  • 2. Emily C  |  October 31, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I am also adding Guernsey to my travel list. But I don’t think my high school French would get me through reading anything at all, let alone Victor Hugo – I am impressed. Thank you so much for your comment and for reading my blog!!

    • 3. ClaireMcA  |  November 1, 2011 at 4:43 am

      I have to confess, I read it in english which was hard going enough while my friend read it in french, but the theatre piece was all in french and I know I wouldn’t have understood that if I hadn’t been acquainted with the story. My french reading is limited to the slim entertaining novellas of Amelie Nothomb.

  • 4. post card from guernsey « Our own sweet time…  |  November 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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