Review: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

Posted May 3, 2009 by Elizabeth in book reviews/ 7 Comments

A pie made from potato peels? That’s just what it comes to during WWII on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. The history of the Channel islands, between France and Great Britain, has been a tug-of-war for centuries because of their prime geographic location. In 1940 a third great power, realizing the importance of their position, gained control of the islands after conquering France As far as takeovers go, it was fairly peaceful, as the islands had already been all but abandoned by their British protectors. It is during this time of little food, constant vigilance, and no contact with the outside world, that some of the inhabitants begin The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows, have written a wonderfully heart-warming, funny, and informative story about this fictional group, told through letters written after the war.

 

January of 1946, Juliet Ashton, London born and bred receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer on the Isle of Guernsey. He has purchased a second-hand book with her name and address written on the frontispiece and is writing to ask for her help in acquiring more books and information about it’s author. It is important for readers to realize that during the war few books were published and many were destroyed by bombings and used for fires. Juliet, an avid reader, and an author herself is charmed by the letter and begins a correspondence with Dawsey that soon grows to include other members of the Society. They are all such interesting people with their little idiosyncrasies, Eben a fisherman raising his grandson, Isola, a free spirit, Kit a little girl with neither parent, being raised higgledy-piggledy by the members of the Society. Juliet soon decides to visit Guernsey to get to know her new friends, learn more about their lives during the Occupation, and see if there is a story there for her to write.
I hope you can tell from my tone how much I enjoyed this book. It had history which I always love, and quirky characters. I haven’t read an epistolary novel in quite a while, so that made my rhythm of reading different from how I’ve gone through books lately. As always, my only disappointment in the book was not the story, but the lack of historic information. Books used in the research were given, but I wanted to know which of the stories of the occupation were based on fact, and how the authors, both Americans, went about their research. It always helps me understand these kinds of books better.
So what IS a potato peel pie? Just what it sounds like! If you’re going to have a literary society, you need to serve refreshments and Will, one of the members invents a pie using potato peels as the crust, and whipped potato as the filling. In times of rationing people can be very enterprising! There is a nice official website for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that has a full recipe. Below is a 3-minute interview with Annie Barrows talking about the book and showing many images of Guernsey during the war. I am very proud of myself, this is the first time I’m putting a video in a post.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been on many best-seller lists and is coming out in paperback next week, so get it for your beach bag!

 

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