Linda Sexauer's Reviews > The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
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Jul 29, 08

bookshelves: 2008

Several years ago, I worked at an art gallery here in Anchorage. Though I loved the art, I wasn’t much good at selling it. More often than not, I just chatted up the customers, who were from all over the world.

One night, four elderly people wandered in. They told me they were from a tiny island off the coast of southern England called “Guernsey”. I’d never heard of it, so they proudly explained it was the only part of British soil that had been occupied by the Nazis during World War II. The island was occupied for a long five years; an experience to which they had all been witnesses. At that moment, Guernsey was marked in my mind.

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s new book, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is an opportunity to travel back in time to 1946 Guernsey.

Beginning early 1946 in London, Juliet Ashton, a British writer, and former war journalist, is emerging from the ashes of the war to rebuild her life and her identity. She has lost her home and all her possessions, most regrettably her book collection. Out of the blue, she responds to correspondence started by a resident of Guernsey, who has managed to obtain a second-hand book once owned by Juliet, in which she had long ago written her name and address. Through this initial contact, Juliet meets an entire community, and the course of her life is redirected.

Easily reminiscent of Helene Hanff’s epistolary classic, “84 Charing Cross Road”, the novel is written in the epistolary style. Shaffer and Barrow skillfully use this medium to successfully establish their characters and a solid storyline.

Charming, funny, sweet, and thoughtful, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a story that women might find more appealing than men. Yet, it is unflinching in its wartime recollections. The deprivations and devastation of the time are imaginatively and convincingly conveyed.

At its core, this is a book about the love of reading, and the magic of books.

I highly, highly recommend “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”.
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Jessica What a wonderful memory to have along with this book!


message 2: by Ross (new)

Ross Jersey and the rest of the channel islands were all occupied as well.


Lawrence I am curious why you would say this book might appeal to women more than to men. I am a man, and I loved this book.


message 4: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Ross wrote: "Jersey and the rest of the channel islands were all occupied as well."

I was going to say this! My husband is from the Isle of Jersey - their war museum is really interesting and informative.

Perhaps your friends at the art gallery were referring to all of the Channel Islands, rather than just Guernsey. Either way, I've added this to my to-read list :)


Kelly thanks for sharing such a "small world" story, and connection to the book! I thoroughly enjoyed the book as well!
As for Lawrence's comment about being a man...I must agree, the book leans more towards the female audience mostly b/c of Juliet...but glad that Lawrence enjoyed it nonetheless (there ARE great male characters too!)


Lawrence Hi. I am wondering, I guess, what makes a book appeal mainly to women or to men. I think there is such a distinction. For example, I'd say a woman reader would be more in tune with pure "romance" fiction, like on the shelves in the grocery store. But I think those books have a target market. Otherwise, I find it hard to find the "key" to what makes a book woman oriented or man oriented. In the Potato book, I liked the female characters as well as the others. What do you think of "Run" by Ann Patchett? A lady's or a gentleman's book??


Kelly I JUST read Run....so good question.
But before I answer, I think my opinion is based upon not knowing very men that read fiction outside of Stephen King or the guy who writes all the lawyer books like The Firm or Pelican Brief.
Pathetic, no?
My husband and his friends are more non fiction...
My book "circles" are so female based...so I think I guess I prob view most books as female oriented. ha!
RUN: you're right, good story for males, heavy male cast of characters...but again, the center of it all is this little girl (and her mother and their own beloved mother....).
Anyhow, good example, good points you make!
(way better than "chatting" with this Emma, hee hee)


Kelly ps, I just reread that...what a terrible sentence: "I think I guess I prob..."
my brain is mush today: I teach 1st grade and have 2 small children!


Lawrence Hi, again. I mainly read fiction. I do read some nonfiction, but fiction is what I love. Maybe that is why I ask the question about what women or men like in fiction. Your points are good, too. Maybe, the distinction is a little phoney and it's all just a question of being open to the book --- I mean, more analytical about it as a book, rather than just taking a simply "feeling" approach. Then, all kinds of books will be accessible. (?????) Thanks for taking the time what with the kids at home and at school!


Linda Stephens i also thought it reminded me of the book "64 Charing Cross Road." I loved that book and really enjoyed this one as well.


Gayle I am loving this book! so much life and joy in the midst of deprivation and despair!


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Linda, flagged for you. When they're gone let me know and I'll remove this post too.


Daftwullie When did you work in Anchorage? Anna Washakie had paintings there a few years ago. She lived in Fairbanks, and since my husband liked her work, we have a perpetual one-woman show in our living room.


Wendy Cushing Lucky you to have met someone from there!


message 15: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie King A beautiful story!


message 16: by HyL (new) - rated it 5 stars

HyL "At its core, this is a book about the love of reading, and the magic of books." I could not agree more. A book which, the moment I finished it, I wanted yo read another. I was so saddened to learn the author had died before completing the text, and heartened that her niece had taken on the task of completing it.


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