Beth F.'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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's review
Oct 06, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: general-fiction, 2008, it-made-me-cry, recommended-for-women, i-reviewed-this-bad-boy
Recommended for: almost anyone - I covered the specifics in my review
Read in November, 2008

Gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush!!! GUSH!!!!! So yes, clearly I loved this book.

I think the only person I wouldn’t recommend this book to is one of those people who only read meaty tomes that might give regular people a brain embolism while they’re trying to make sense of the 17 different layers of subconscious meaning. I’d also hesitate from recommending this book to most men. However, if you have the ability to find joy and delight in the simple pleasures of a feel-good book, you too might fall in love with this story.

The book is written entirely in an epistolary format, consisting of letters back and forth between Juliet Ashton, a young author in 1946 London and several of her contacts and friends. It is just after WWII and people are trying to reclaim their lives and figure out if and how to move on from the tragedy of the war.

Juliet receives an unsolicited letter from a man who lives on the island of Guernsey, one of the small islands situated in the English Channel between France and England (known for having loose regulations and financial secrecy in the modern world thereby making it attractive to fraudsters, money launderers and criminals, but that has nothing to do with this story and why it is enjoyable, I just couldn’t help myself from mentioning it). But anyway, Dawsey Adams of Guernsey acquires a used book that had originally been owned by Juliet. She had penned her name and address inside the cover and Dawsey decided to write her a letter to share how much he’d enjoyed her secondhand book and how reading books had helped several Guernsey residents cope during the time of the German Occupation of their island. Before long, Juliet is corresponding regularly with Mr. Adams and several other Guernsey residents, all who had been a part of the Literary Society. She learns that the Society was initially formed as a front to explain a broken curfew but eventually became a rewarding opportunity to meet with friends and discuss a love of books. Eventually, Juliet travels to Guernsey to meet her island pen friends and it was hard for me to put the book down and get any work done!

The letters back and forth between Juliet and her friends gave the book a personal touch and it felt like we were being given an inside look into these peoples’ lives. I subscribe to the belief that letter-writing is a lost art form and appreciate books that are heavy on the letters and found the format enjoyable and easy to approach. There is also a very sweet love story in between these pages that made me sigh with contentment when the book ended. It was a highly satisfying read and I think that most book lovers would also enjoy this story.

Even though most of us don’t write letters anymore, I think we will identify and be attracted to the notion of maintaining a long-distance correspondence with someone and developing a friendship with someone we’ve never even met (hello? Anybody chat/email with friendly strangers on the internet?) Juliet becomes quite close to her Guernsey friends and there was one passage in particular when she is finally embarking on her trip to meet her pen friends that rung true for me because it was eerily similar to the thoughts I’ve had on the occasion when I’ve met “net friends” who crossed that boundary to become “real life friends” and it’s that, “oh god, oh god, oh god, what if we don’t like each other? What if my words misled them? What if I’m not as interesting in person as they thought I was online?”

”As the mail boat lurched into the harbor, I saw St. Peter Port rising up from the sea on terraces, with a church on the top like a cake decoration, and I realized that my heart was galloping. As much as I tried to persuade myself it was the thrill of the scenery, I knew better. All those people I’ve come to know and even love a little, waiting to see—me. And I, without any paper to hide behind…in these past two or three years, I have become better at writing than living…On the page, I’m perfectly charming, but that’s just a trick I learned. It has nothing to do with me. T least, that’s what I was thinking as the mail boat came toward the pier. I had a cowardly impulse to throw my red cape overboard and pretend I was someone else.”

As if I hadn’t already fallen in love with Juliet and her friends by this point, reading that passage actually brought tears to my eyes (not even kidding) because I knew exactly what she was feeling at that precise moment because I’ve been there before. So yes, I loved this book. It was beautiful and charming and a sheer delight to read.

However, I think potato peel pie sounds disgusting and I wouldn’t want to eat it.
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Reading Progress

11/24/2008 page 1
0.36% "Will try not to get hung up on the fact that Guernsey is known as a tax haven that doesn't cooperate with international anti-secrecy laws..."
11/25/2008 page 52
18.98% "What a delightful book!"
03/03/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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John Beth, I am a man and if you check my review of this you will see I rate it 5* and would make it more if available.
PS - I'm not SNAG either. Mun

Beth F. Hi there John. I’m glad you loved it too; it was a very good read! I’ve recommended this book to more people than I can count and purchased it as a birthday gift several weeks ago.

I’m not sure what “SNAG” means, but I’m still sticking with my original statement that I wouldn’t recommend this book to most men. That’s not to say that there aren’t some exceptions to that rule (there always are) but in general, I think the book would be more appealing to more women than to men as a whole (rather than the individual).

The same could be said for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, which would probably appeal to a larger base of women, but which I strongly suspect has the ability to cross over and appeal to both sexes. At it’s base, it’s a love story, but there is so much more to it than that.

Sarah I must have missed your review of this; I wondered what you thought about it! I was gushing as well. :)

Beth F. It was wonderful, thank you so much for lending it to me! As soon as this book comes out in paperback I'm going out to purchase my own copy. It was fantastic and I'd love to re-read it someday.

message 5: by Rui (new)

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You have made here some interesting comments

I invite you to gave a look to my
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See my blog:

Beth F. Thanks but I think I'll pass for now, oh-mysterious-one. Try me again once you post a photo of yourself and create a read/reading list.

But best wishes on your spam campaign!!!

message 7: by Rui (new)

Rui M. Thanks :) I'll do it! :)

message 8: by Rui (new)

Rui M. Hi Beth !
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Laurel Loved this review, Beth. I'll have to check this one out!

Beth F. This was a wonderful book, Laurel. The first few pages are a bit confusing while you're trying to figure out the characters and their relationship to each other, but that confusion is short-lived. I've been recommending this book to everyone I know: my mother-in-law, my mom, my sister and even my grandma, right before she passed away read it and loved it.

It's very short and sweet and one of the most fulfilling things I've read in a long time.

message 11: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva Leger Thanks for the review Beth- I was back and forth on this but I'm going to give it a shot now.

Beth F. I absolutely loved this book. It took me a few sittings, only because I read it in the middle of the week (so work got in the way) and I constantly found myself thinking about the characters and the story in the between times.

And it's such a short, fast read, so it doesn't hurt to check it out--you don't have much to lose! :)

message 13: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva Leger I will- I'd seen a few people mention it on the challenge thread and it caught my eye and wasn't past the considering point still when I saw your review. :) I'll let you know what I think when I get it!

Young I just finished this book and absolutely loved it. I like the style of reading letters but I fell in love with the people. Wish I could meet them all and be their friend. I was sad when I finished and sadder still to read that this is the only book Mary Ann Shaffer wrote.

message 15: by Janene (new)

Janene We just started a new book club, having our first meeting tonight...and am very pleased to say this book was voted on to read next. Looking forward to it very much.........largely based upon your review, Beth.

Gush, gush, GUSH! lol

(Congrats on your new baby!!)

Michelle I am half way done with this book, and I am absolutely in love with this book and the characters, And yes, I am feeling inspired to start my own correspondence with my own circle of friends....

Sarah Gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush!!! GUSH!!!!!
That is quite exactly like what I felt like after reading this book! :)

message 18: by Nikki (new) - added it

Nikki Moore alexander I also loved this! I was assigned to read it for an Comp class in college and I was exrememly apprehensive. However, once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. Life changing!

message 19: by Eike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eike Lorents Hey, just finished the book and loved your review as well, just wanted to let you know :) :)

message 20: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam I agree w you, Beth. Delightful. Pangs of close community living and no freaking tv and electronics stealing away close knit relationships..

Jacque I grew up in a small community where 40 years later, relationships are still warm and inviting. I, too, enjoyed this book, your review resonated with me and I bought copies for my Mom and aunts.

Prachi Pati Beth!!! I just finished reading this book, and no one had recommended this book to me. However, I absolutely fell in love with this book, more so because, as you said, it brought back memories of the joys of snail mail and writing to pen friends from distant lands! The excitement of knowing a little about someone , their experiences and the place they live in, their history, everything! Yes, the story or the characters might seem a little far fetched to be real, but cmon, this is fiction! wrapped over some real facts about the war- so who cares! I loved the characters and the book and want to visit Guersney, just for that! hehe

Beth F. Glad you loved it! I did too, it's lovely. :)

Prachi Pati I cant get it out of my head now..:) I'm curious to know what you're reading currently? I've been hearing a lot about this new book called Saint Mazie, but unfortunately, I'm unable to get my hands on a hardcover here in India, and I really like the US hardcover design..hehe, I know, I feel a little shallow, literally judging a book by its cover :D I think you might have some interesting suggestions for my June book:)

Beth F. I've only read the first chapter, but today I started Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It's non-fiction, set during the same WWII era as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and has also gotten a lot of high ratings from other readers.

It's interesting so far. :)

Prachi Pati Alright, will try and check this out soon

message 27: by Gina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gina I totally, totally agree and I'm not even halfway finished it yet! If you want a real treat, get the audiobook. The narrators are amazing and really bring the letters to life. Sorry to all the literary snobs out there looking down their noses but this book is brilliant and makes me wish we still took the time to write letters and slow down a little.

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