Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review of the Day: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The ever-perky Juliet Ashton is in a slump after the success of her book, Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War, a collection of her popular, London-during-the-Blitz newspaper columns.  Looking for love – and an idea for a new book – leaves Juliet torn between a post-war fling with a dashing American publisher and her first-hand investigation of the German occupation of the Channel Island of Guernsey.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is told through a series of lively letters among the many characters, primarily Juliet, her editor, and a group of Guernsey residents who survived the war.  Juliet is delightful and witty without being cloying, the islanders are quirky and charming, and the supporting characters do their part as straight men to the comedians.

There are a few places where the epistolary structure teeters – where an important story point or key transition too perfectly arrives in the morning post, just in time to move the narrative forward.  But the book is so short and the story moves along at such a quick pace that it is easy to rush past without noticing these minor flaws.

Mary Ann Shaffer wrote the book after years of researching the not widely known history of Guernsey’s occupation during World War II.  She includes horrific details of the war, including slave labor, executions, collaboration, and concentration camps, but telling the story from the post-war perspective provides needed distance, and the humor and cheerfulness of her characters make the darker themes tolerable.  Shaffer’s niece, Annie Barrows, finished the book when her aunt became too ill to complete it.


So Many Precious Book, So Little Time

(If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


  1. I've heard lots about this book. Can you tell, stylistically, when her niece took over the writing?

  2. Sam: No, I couldn't tell at all. I tend to be dubious about books with two authors, but I enjoyed this one so much I set that prejudice aside. Only at the end did I read the authors' notes and understood the role Barrows played. And even then I couldn't look back and tell -- it was seamless.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as well...had no idea that her niece took over at some point and don't remember thinking any change had taken place at any point. Interesting...

  4. This one is definitely on my wishlist; everyone has raved about it! :)

  5. I read this a couple of years ago, it was a perfect holiday read for me. I love epistolary novels, and thought this a wonderful one.

  6. I really enjoyed this book! Glad you did, too.

  7. I enjoyed reading this book. The perfect timing of the letters that moved the plot along was, for me, rather the same as believing the powerful wizards who taught at Hodwarts would really sit on the sidelines while Harry Potter and the other students carried the day. Most novels ask us to suspend our disbelief about something that's critical to the success of the yarn.

  8. This is a book I've wanted to and meant to read for more than a year and still haven't! I've had at least 2 copies, too...and I loaned out both and got neither one or the other back as the readers enjoyed the book too much!

    Although some things may occur a little too conveniently or easily, this book sounds like a wonderful story about an interesting place that is one of many previously untold parts of history. Thanks for a great review and for reminding me of the book I should read very early on in 2011!

    ~ Amy

  9. It was one of my favorites a year (or two?) ago. I completely agree with your review :-)


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