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Archive 08-19 GR Discussions > Guernsey: About the Authors

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message 1: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments About the authors, from

"Mary Ann Shaffer became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1976. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there when a thick fog descended and all boats and planes were forbidden to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to lift, warming herself by the heat of the hand-dryer in the men's restroom, she read all the books in the Guernsey airport bookstore, including Jersey under the Jack-Boot. Thus began her fascination with the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.

Many years later, when goaded by her book club to write a novel, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey. She chose to write in the epistolary form because, "for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier." Several years of work yielded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was greeted with avid enthusiasm, first by her family, then by her writing group, and finally by publishers around the world. Sadly, Mary Ann's health began to decline shortly thereafter, and she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book.

Mary Ann Shaffer was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1934. Her career included libraries, bookstores (including the renowned Book Passage), and publishing, but her life-long dream was to "write a book that someone would like enough to publish." Though she did not live to see it, this dream has been realized in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Annie Barrows, whose career also included libraries, bookstores, and publishing, is the author of the Ivy and Bean series for children and The Magic Half. Her website is

Annie also has a page on YouTube where she talks about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society."

message 2: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2564 comments Mod
I had read this after I finished the book and was so excited about it. It makes me sad that a book I love so much will never have a follow up book by that author. It is such a loss. I wish she had began writing sooner. (Selfish of me huh?)
I love this part
Many years later, when goaded by her book club to write a novel
How many among us are a Mary Ann? Who is waiting to be goaded by their book club?

message 3: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments So did Mary Ann die? Or is she ill?

I think we ARE the Wednesday sisters. We're like the Cyber Sisters. I think there are little writers in all of us.

message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments That's really a shame. I wonder at what point in the story Annie took over?

message 5: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments If you read the blurb carefully, it says that she didn't live long enough to see her dream of published. It is sad we won't read another of her books, but Annie Barrows is an author. As far as I know, she will continue to write books, so there is hope.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I have not read it yet! But what a sad story!

I have to say I have not been to gurnsey but I have been to Jersey in the channel islands.

I can see the fascination. I want to move to Jersey next!

message 7: by Beth (new)

Beth | 163 comments Annie Barrows is one of my daughter's favorite authors (she is 10). Ms. Barrows wrote a book called The Magic Half that my daughter loved. She also writes the Ivy & Bean series that is quite popular in the elementary school as well. I was thrilled to see that she is the one that finished the book for her aunt. From what I understand, her aunt was able to complete the original manuscript and sent it off to be edited, etc, and then Annie took over from there - making all the necessary changes, additions, deletions and so forth. In any event, it was beautifully done! It is a real treasure of a book.

message 8: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments That actually makes sense - I am about 1/2 way through, and I keep thinking it's so seamless, I would never know where they switched off.

message 9: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments Thank you Beth for that information.

message 10: by Emily (new)

Emily (ejfalke) | 576 comments Great info, Beth! I'm glad that the entire "story" was conceived by Mary Ann. And how wonderful that she had a niece with writing ability to pick it up when she was ill. God puts people in our lives for a reason.

message 11: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I thought that I would share this from Annie Barrows that is posted on readinggroupguides for those of you who don't visit that site.

I have received many, many letters from readers all over the world bemoaning the fact that the book comes to an end. "I wanted it to go on forever," they say. "I want to go to Guernsey and join a book club." "I want to be a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." And the answer is Yes. As long as we don't get too caught up in the space-time continuum, the book does still go on, every time a reader talks about it with another reader. The membership of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society increases each time the book is read and enjoyed. The wonderful thing about books --- and the thing that made them such a refuge for the islanders during the Occupation --- is that they take you out of your time and place and transport you, not just into the world of the story, but into the world of your fellow-readers, who have stories of their own.

In the last six weeks, the weeks since the book was published, I have heard from readers who were reminded of their own wartime experiences. One Guernsey native told me of his evacuation to England, along with hundreds of other children, the week before the Germans invaded. The most thrilling moment, he said, was his first glimpse of a black cow. He hadn't known cows came in black. Another woman, a child in Germany during the war, told of bringing food to the French soldier hiding in her attic --- she was the only member of the family small enough to squeeze through the trapdoor.

It's not all war-stories, though. I've heard from people who want to know if Isaac Bickerstaffe is real (yes) and people who want to make potato peel pie (don't do it!) and people who want to read another book written in letters (Daddy Long Legs). Mostly, though, I've heard from people who are happy because they enjoyed the book.

This, it seems to me, is the new version of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Its members are spread all over the world, but they are joined by their love of books, of talking about books, and of their fellow readers. We are transformed --- magically --- into a book club each time we pass a book along, each time we ask a question about it, each time we exclaim, "Oh, I loved that book!" when we see someone else reading it, each time we say "If you liked that, I bet you'd like this." Reading joins us into a motley, sometimes argumentative club --- and what could be better than that?

---Annie Barrows

message 12: by Emily (new)

Emily (ejfalke) | 576 comments Reading joins us into a motley, sometimes argumentative club --- and what could be better than that?

Great! THANKS, Meg!

message 13: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments Exactly right, reading joins us into a motley club - GR!! That's what!!

Terrific, Meg, thanks for including that. I guess maybe we should take that to mean she's not going to write a second?

message 14: by Meg (last edited Oct 12, 2008 08:31AM) (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments Annie Barrows has written YA books. I am pretty certain she is not ending her career, but that is a great question to ask her when we have our chat with her. Of course, she won't be co-authoring with her aunt, which is a shame; but, what a great tribute to her aunt to have a best-selling novel.

message 15: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments Well, yeah, I meant a second Guernsey. It would be hard without her aunt, I'm sure.

message 16: by Emily (new)

Emily (ejfalke) | 576 comments It didn't sound like she intended to continue the Guernsey story from what Meg posted above. It sounded like she tried to address people who ask her if there will be more without coming out and saying there wouldn't be. :) But maybe...

Bloomin’Chick (Jo) aka The Eclectic Spoonie (bloominchick) I love Annie's response to Guernsey!

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