Elizabeth'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 28, 2009

bookshelves: chocolate-club, world-war-ii, ravensbrück
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Sue Brown
Read in October, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Despite its heavy literary indebtedness to 84 Charing Cross Road and its bizarre history of double authorship and the painfully Mary Sue-ishness of the main character Juliet (and also of Elizabeth McKenna, the absent heroine, Juliet's counterpart, whose place Juliet eventually fills--literally living in Elizabeth's house and raising Elizabeth's daughter)--in spite of some rather wincingly cliched flaws it really is an excellent book, a fast and easy read, and a fascinating portrait of the Nazi-occupied Channel Islands (chiefly Guernsey). And I did know that the Channel Isles were occupied--the only British soil to be invaded by the Germans--but I didn't know a thing about what this meant in terms of real life.

But it's a very girly book. My husband would love the portrait of occupied Guernsey that is so effortlessly woven into the story, but I think the romance that drives the novel would make his eyes cross. (The strong, handsome, filthy rich, dashing, callous American failed love interest certainly made ME squirm. Is the authors' experience of Americans limited ENTIRELY to our occasional representation on The Archers as dumb, fat, rich benefactors????)

I'm not really doing it justice in these critical ramblings. I enjoyed the book immensely and think it deserves all the accolades it's getting.
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Quotes Elizabeth Liked

Mary Ann Shaffer
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”
Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Reading Progress

10/28/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Gosh, I don't think the author's (either of them) experience of Americans is limited to our representation anywhere. I believe both women ARE American. From California, if I remember correctly.

message 2: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth how bizarre!

message 3: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth and thinking about this, how cleverly and utterly convincing. It gives the book a certain inherent and inarguable *Britishness*.

message 4: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Elizabeth wrote: "and thinking about this, how cleverly and utterly convincing. It gives the book a certain inherent and inarguable *Britishness*.


I don't remember how I know this -- I must have read an interview with the author (or her co-author niece) after my book club read this but, what I recall was that she had traveled to Guernsey, but not lived there herself. This I found remarkable, too! And a first novel, written so late in life she did not survive to finish what I suppose were substantial revisions, i.e., she had sold the book before she died, but her niece had to complete the revisions on her behalf. I may be mangling the details. It's been a year or more since I read it but I remember being thoroughly sad that the author did get to enjoy the spoils.

message 5: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth I'm pretty sure those details are correct--there was an author's note by the niece at the back of the book. I've just checked, and you're right that they're american, too! The stereotyped American character was stronger in my memory than the reality of the authors' notes!

message 6: by Laura (new)

Laura My mother remembered that I had been a big fan of 84 Charing Cross road when I was about 13 (to the point of writing a letter to Helene Hanff, and getting a hand-written response), so she predicted I'd like this one. I did, but kept having the ITV (via PBS) series Island at War in my mind while reading, so my image of Guernsey is actually the Isle of Man (where filming took place).

message 7: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth I haven't seen the series and will probably look into it! The Isle of Man is very photogenic.

We once tried to fly to Alderney in a very small plane and failed to land because there was such a strong crosswind. So I have seen the Channel Isles from the air but not the ground.

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