Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2009
Rating: 7.5/10

Review: I saw this book reviewed quite a bit when it first came out and then every so often until the end of last year at which point I added it to my 'read' queue. It sounded fun and quirky and had this amazingly strange title, which attracted notice.

The novel is written entirely in letters sent by and to a published columnist, Juliet, a year after World War II is over. By a sheer coincidence she begins corresponding with a man from Guernsey who tells her stories of life on the island and its occupation during the war.

I had to look up on the map where Guernsey is -- it's a small island off the shore of France that nevertheless belongs to Britain. At some point the book fills us in on the story and the geography of the island, but I was curious long before that point. It's a pretty neat setting for the book.

The book starts out really well, with everyone telling just enough of the story to kindle the reader's interest. I think the biggest potential issue the authors avoided was making this into a depressing book. Not particularly difficult with WWII as the topic. However, this novel was a really good balance of terrifying things people had to live through and jokes, fun, and light they created to deal with their reality. The stories were heartfelt and told matter-of-factly and often in a funny manner despite being horrifying underneath and I really enjoyed that style of story-telling.

The best part about the book are the characters. They are quirky, imperfect, gregarious, simple and sophisticated at the same time. I just fell in love with the whole crew and they were the ones who kept me in the story throughout. The biggest flaw in the novel is probably the lack of plot tension and a very obvious ending. The author tried to get some plot going, but the outcome just seemed so entirely obvious the whole way through that the tension just failed to build up and I thought the second part of the book was a bit of a let down.

Nevertheless, I would wholeheartedly recommend this as a warm and funny book dealing with experiences of German occupation during WWII. This war seems to be an unintentionally recurring subject for me this year and this book turned out to be yet another really good read.


  1. I remember reading this a few years ago. It was a bit too 'cozy' for my taste. Not a lot of tension or conflict but certainly nothing that would turn anyone off either.

    1. I think cozy is a great way to describe it. It fit my mood though, so I rather enjoyed that.