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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie…
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008)

by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,9921114221 (4.15)1 / 1167
As London is emerging from the shadow of World War II, writer Juliet Ashton discovers her next subject in a book club on Guernsey--a club born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi after its members are discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island.
  1. 490
    84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (khuggard, DetailMuse, Cecilturtle, helgagrace, Sodapop, BasilBlue, kraaivrouw)
    khuggard: Another tale about book lovers who come together through letters, with the same post-war England setting.
    Sodapop: A Non-fiction story about book lovers told via their letters.
    BasilBlue: A book about books and booklovers for booklovers that incidentally has a real flavor of the late 40s and early 50s.
    kraaivrouw: Another book about people who connect via their love of books and reading.
  2. 361
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (writemeg)
    writemeg: Another deeply affecting, beautiful and heartbreaking story of books, love, small kindness and resilience during World War II.
  3. 150
    Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both stories are bittersweet - tales of hardship, prejudice and hope although they are set in very different places and very different times. Fried Green Tomatoes jumps around but describes life, race relations and murder in a small Southern town during the Great Depression. Shaffer's novel deals with the occupation (and its aftermath) of the small Channel Island of Guernsey during WWII.… (more)
  4. 141
    The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (Anonymous user, mysterymax)
    Anonymous user: Both novels reflect on World War II from small, seaside towns, one an island in Europe, the other a small town in Cape Cod. The female leads are unique and interesting and are surrounded by great small town people.
  5. 164
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (cransell)
  6. 102
    The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (MyriadBooks)
  7. 80
    The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Going in to the bookmobile to apologize for the disturbance created by one of her corgis, Queen Elizabeth II feels it would only be polite to check out a book. When she returns it, she checks out another . . . and then another. One of her pages becomes her abettor in the matter of securing books and reading them. Thus begins an amusing but also thought-provoking saga of how reading can change a person's habits and even outlook.… (more)
  8. 81
    Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (vulgarboatman)
    vulgarboatman: Similar themes of a journalist discovering the layers of secrets around a mystery from WWII, along with an exploration of the effect of these events on the survivors, their families, and ultimately on the journalist herself.
  9. 103
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Voracious_Reader)
    Voracious_Reader: The writing styles and the authors' love for the written word connect both period pieces in my mind even though their plots are extremely different.
  10. 60
    The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G. B. Edwards (jill123, BasilBlue)
    jill123: Though they are different in style and tone, both books are set in the Channel Islands during the Nazi Occupation. I enjoyed the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but I found Ebenezer Le Page to be an absolutely wonderful book. More complex and interesting than the Potato Peel Society.… (more)
    BasilBlue: Although written in a more elegantly sparse style, this book covers much the same territory, geographically and emotionally.
  11. 50
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (bell7, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    bell7: Though one is set in contemporary times on a fictional island of the coast of Massachusetts and the other in post World War II England, both books show the importance of story and have an optimistic tone while dealing with some of life's challenges.
    BookshelfMonstrosity: A love of literature helps protagonists form unlikely but rewarding new relationships in these tender stories of personal redemption. The vibrant characterization, gently humorous tone, and whimsical, heartwarming narratives shine in compelling novels that illustrate the power of reading.… (more)
  12. 40
    Miss Buncle by D. E. Stevenson (wandering_star)
  13. 51
    Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole (rosylibrarian)
  14. 73
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Limelite)
    Limelite: Also an epistolary novel. Also about how community can triumph over debilitating circumstance.
  15. 40
    Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (nancyewhite)
  16. 40
    The Dig by John Preston (catherinestead)
  17. 31
    A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (betsytacy)
    betsytacy: This YA novel, set in 1936, features 16-year-old Sophie, a royal orphan growing up with her siblings and cousin in a shabby castle on island kingdom of Montmaray, somewhere off the coast of England. The island's strategic location draws the interest of the Nazis.… (more)
  18. 42
    A Place of Hiding by Elizabeth George (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books deal with the occupation of Guernsey by the Nazis.
  19. 10
    The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Very different books, but both are set on Guernsey and have a strong sense of place. Both books also cover the WWII occupation of the island. And finally, both books are compelling, quick reads.
  20. 10
    Plenty by David Hare (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Both capture the desperation of post-war England in their own unique ways.

(see all 40 recommendations)

To Read (61)
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English (1,070)  French (16)  Spanish (7)  Catalan (5)  German (4)  Finnish (3)  Dutch (3)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Danish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Latvian (1)  All languages (1,113)
Showing 1-5 of 1070 (next | show all)
First of all, I should mention that this isn't my normal cup of tea. That being said, I do like it for precisely what it is.

A literary romance. Sure, there's some real romance in there, too, and it being 1946 and in and near the heart of England, we can expect a lot of post-war recuperation. What's the hook?

A book appreciation society.

Add a moderately successful writer, a clever hook to get her interested in a small island that's nothing more than a small town, and show her the virtues of small-town community versus everything else.

Add great stories and characterization of all the members, their experiences while being occupied by Germany, and especially the heart of the Potato Peel Society and her experiences, and what we've got is a historical novel full of charm and wit and heart.

My favorite part is how the whole thing is written epistolary fashion. There's also a nice Dorothy Parker feel, too. But what I think most people are hungry for is the romance and the love of literature.

I'm a huge fan of the literature bit, of course, but for me, I was only slightly interested in the whole Doc Hollywood romance. The feel of the Possession romance was quite understated, but it was there, but even so, the heart of it is people finding something good to love and pour their heart into during some really trying times.

It's a common enough theme. And heaven knows, we need it. And while I'm not going head-over-heels for the novel, I have no complaints.

I may have been forced to read it, but that doesn't matter. I don't regret it. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I was kinda iffy on this one going in; the epistolary format was a tough sell for me and it really just sounded a little dull to be honest. But much to my surprise, it turned out to be one of the most charming, delightful books I've ever read! ( )
  ShelfImprovement | May 27, 2020 |
An easy, charming, engaging read. The story is light, despite being about the aftermath of WW2, and all the characters are likable. The writing and story were stronger at the beginning than at the end, which may have been something to do with the revisions by the author's niece after the author herself passed away. But still would recommend for slightly-less-fluffier-than-normal beach reading, or an escape from pandemic madness. I watched the movie after reading the book, and of course the book was better...with one major caveat. I really didn't care for book's resolution of the child Kit's circumstances; it seemed so inappropriate for Juliet to do what she did, and for everyone else to just agree with it. But with the changes made for the movie, this plot point was removed and replaced with a much more natural ending. ( )
  sanyamakadi | May 19, 2020 |
About forty-five minutes in to this eight hour novel, I was on the verge of giving up. I liked the writing and the pace but I couldn't engage with the apparently privileged middle-class characters sharing light-weight banter about publishing and book tours, immediately after the end of World War Two. They and the book seemed to lack substance and I was getting ready to move on. I promised myself that I'd stop after ninety minutes if things didn't get better.

They did get better. Dramatically better. So much so that I feel I would have missed something quite special if I hadn't persisted.

Looking back, I realise that the light-weight banter I was unsatisfied by was a forced cheerfulness shared by old friends trying to come to terms with the end of hard times and discovering that, once something bad has happened to you, it becomes part of you. You carry it with you like a scar or a shrapnel in your flesh. It is has changed you, is part of you but, with the help of light-weight banter and the love of good friends, need not define who you are going to become.

I started to engage with the book as soon as the letters from Guernsey started to arrive. These were people I wanted to know and who had stories that I wanted to hear.

As they were meant to, each letter pulled me further and further into the world of the Islanders and fed my hunger to know what the German occupation had been like for them: what they had done, what they had lost, whether and how they could build a future for themselves from the ruins of the war.

The audiobook format is a perfect match for the epistolary novel form, with different narrators bringing each correspondent alive. Every narrator did a splendid job in creating a sense of identity and growing intimacy as the novel unfolded.

Normally, I don't do well with novel about the behaviour of the Germans in World War II. Too many books seem to glory in the details of the atrocities or push for the easy-to-claim-in-retrospect moral high ground. What I found compelling about this book was the very personal nature of the disclosures, grounded in individual experiences where one has to decide whether to do what is right or what is safe, where one becomes or is made, more or less human by each decision and where the highest form of bravery is not giving way to despair in the face of inhuman behaviour.

There are many passages in this book that moved me to tears; many stories that I know will stay with me, even though I would rather not have them in my head. So much for the book being too light-weight.

Yet this book in neither a dirge nor a lament. It is a book about the joy of life and love as much as it is about sorrow and loss. There is a love story, delicate, slight but wondrous all the same, at the centre of this book. There are also friendships and kindnesses that lift the spirit.

By the end of the book, I began to wish that I too could visit this version of Guernsey and become an honorary member of its literary society.

I've seen some reviews that criticise the novel for not being focused enough on books, implying that the title and the literary society are marketing gimmicks disguising an entirely different type of novel.

I understand this view but I don't share it. The book does not focus on books. It focuses on readers, on why they read and why they need to talk to others about what they have read.

I came to understand how a single line from Shakespeare can "who says most when he says the least" can help a man crystallise his reaction to calamity and face it with greater calm, how the letters of a man dead for centuries can guide a lost and damaged reader back into society and how a tale written for a grieving child can bring hope and happiness years later.

In my view, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" holds up reading and discussing with others what one has read, as an activity that can sustain humanity in the face of brutality, not by providing an escape route but by refreshing the roots of our humanity: a shared human condition, a shared and constantly evolving imagination and the ability to surface truth and emotion and give them their due.

I recommend this wonderful book to anyone who loves life and books and the readers who connect the two. ( )
1 vote MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
I've got a confession: I judged this book by it's title. For some reason, the title made me think it was going to be one of those silly books about how great it was to be southern or an old woman or something like that which meant that it was a frou frou book and I hate those. Friends kept recommending the book. Everywhere I went I saw good reviews on the book. So I finally broke down and read the book. Well, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was anything but frou frou. It takes place in 1946 and focuses mainly on Juliet Ashton who is a writer. Juliet became famous on a series of humorous war articles she wrote during the war. Now, she's looking for a new topic to write about for her next book. One day she receives a letter from a stranger. The man had came into a possession of an old book of poetry written by Charles Lamb that she'd once owned (her name and address were written inside the book). He hoped that Juliet might be able to tell him if Mr. Lamb had written any more books. They start corresponding and she learns that he is a member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. He explains to her that it is a book club that was started when he and his friends were out past curfew one night during the German occupation of Guernsey, got caught and, because they had been roasting an illegal pig, they needed an alibi. Juliet is intrigued by the story and Dawsey gets the other members to start writing Juliet and telling her their stories. And that's where Juliet finds the topic for her next book.

The book is written in the form of letters back and forth between the different characters. In this case, it allowed the authors to give each character his/her own voice. The authors show a side of war that we don't often see in books - that of the everyday people in towns that were occupied and what war does to them. These people were forced to give up their homes, their food, really their freedom, to enemy soldiers. They weren't soldiers fighting in their war. Yet, they ended up fighting their own battles for survival. At the same time, they learned that not all the enemy soldiers were really enemies. They were people like them caught up in a war that they didn't want to be fighting.

So, I must join the leagues of others in recommending this book. Just don't start reading it late at night because once you get started, you might not be able to stop. ( )
1 vote melrailey | Apr 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 1070 (next | show all)
"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," written by the late Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, children's author Annie Barrows, stays within modest bounds, but is successful in ways many novels are not. This book won't change your life, but it will probably enchant you. And sometimes that's precisely what makes fiction worthwhile.
 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society commemorates beautiful spirits who pass through our midst and hunker undercover through brutal times. Shaffer's Guernsey characters step from the past radiant with eccentricity and kindly humour, a comic version of the state of grace. They are innocents who have seen and suffered, without allowing evil to penetrate the rind of decency that guards their humanity.
 
You could be skeptical about the novel's improbabilities and its sanitized portrait of book clubs (doesn't anyone read trashy thrillers?), but you'd be missing the point. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a sweet, sentimental paean to books and those who love them.
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shaffer, Mary Annprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barrows, Anniemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Boehmer, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duerden, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari-Jatta, JaanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landor, RosalynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mills, JulietNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norey, VirginiaBook Designsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norfolk, CharlieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridelberg, HelenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, GeorgeMapsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
Lovingly dedicated to my mother, Edna Fiery Morgan,
and to my dear friend Julia Poppy

—M. A. S.
And to my mother, Cynthia Fiery Barrows
—A. B.
First words
8th January, 1946

Mr. Sidney Stark, Publisher
Stephens & Stark Ltd.
21 St. James's Place
London S.W.1
England

Dear Sidney,

Susan Scott is a wonder. We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food. Susan managed to procure ration coupons for icing sugar and real eggs for the meringue. If all her literary luncheons are going to achieve these heights, I won't mind touring about the country. Do you suppose that a lavish bonus could spur her on to butter? Let's try it—you may deduct the money from my royalties.
Quotations
Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books. - Isola Pribby
Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life. - Isola Pribby
Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true. - Juliet
I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with. - Juliet
I think you learn more if you're laughing at the same time. - John Booker
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Book description
Beginning at the end of WW2, this book is told through the form of letter between writer Juliet Ashton and her friends. Juliet initially receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey asking for more books. She becomes so in love with stories and descriptions of life in Guernsey that she decides to go herself. Through the letters she sends home and the letters from her new friends the stories of people's lives are revealed. This book points out that the lives of people were more important than the formality of the writing.
Haiku summary
In post-war Britain
friendships are forged through a shared
love of literature.
(passion4reading)

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