The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer and
The Dial Press, Dec 2011
306 pages, ebook, paperback, hardcover, audible book, audio CD
Women’s Lit, Romance, Historical Novel, General Fiction
The cover that I had on my book is the one at right with the woman looking across the channel at the island and the postcard in the upper half. When I ordered it I didn’t realize I was ordering the Reading Group Edition, but that’s okay with me. It provides questions for discussion and thought at the back, which sometimes I find useful after reading some books. Anyway, I really like this cover. The other cover is a couple kissing, which I didn’t feel depicted the book anywhere near as well as this cover. This cover really shows both the physical situation and the emotional situation as well. The distance and the longing to be there that Juliet feels. She is our heroine in the book, but as Sydney points out, the story really centers around Elizabeth. Juliet simply stirs the pot and enables the story.
This has to be one of the most wonderful stories I have read in a very long time. It’s a story about people who survived World War II as an occupied territory, cut off from the world for the most part. They live on an island and have sent their children away for their safety. No way of knowing where they are or what is happening to them, or even if they got there safely. They can only hope. Some of their people have been sent off to concentration camps and not been heard from. Elizabeth fell in love with one of the occupying soldiers, Captain Christian Helmann. A nice man, who wanted to marry her after the war was over and raise freesias and children. She got pregnant and had his daughter, Kit. One of the neighbors reported on them to the authorities and the captain got sent to prison in Germany, probably to be hanged, and Elizabeth got sent to a concentration camp. Even in a concentration camp Elizabeth made friends and helped people, as we learn late in the book from Remy. Remy was the friend Elizabeth made in the camp and she comes to the island to heal. Juliet has come to the island to meet these people who started a reading group in the midst of war and stays to write their story and falls in love with the island and the people.
The characters are so well written that you can just imagine each one, and there are a lot of them. There are shy ones, quiet ones, pushy rude ones, and bubbly fun ones. There are ones you want to spend time with and ones you wish you hadn’t met at all. They are real people who have all survived hardship. They have had to rely on each other to do so, too. Even the awful ones had to do their part so that they all could survive. Even the enemy made it possible for them to survive through some of the worst of it.
The pace was that pace I call the pace of life, or maybe this time I should call it the pace of the pen. This story was told through correspondence. Not a lot of books do this, but when they do, they are usually either real bores or outstanding. This is one of those outstanding ones. One not to be missed if you haven’t already read it. And the letters aren’t just back and forth between two or three people, they go among a bunch of people as they all get involved and get to know each other. There’re letters to and from London and the island, between houses on the island, and telegrams as well. And they all write the way they speak. Then there are the book society meetings as well! They’ve each been reading different books and they share their own opinions of them. I was so pleased to have been familiar with just about all of their books, too! Even the Marcus Aurelius Meditations!
I’m not sure tension is what it would be called, but it is there throughout the book carrying you along wanting to know what can possibly happen next. Who will you meet next, what secrets will be revealed next? It’s the what’s next of the whole book that takes you through the three hundred pages of this and wanting more. Wishing there was a sequel. Wishing that Mary Ann Shaffer was still alive to share more of this with us or that her niece, Annie Barrows felt equal to doing another one. Knowing that this is a one and only makes it even more special and definitely puts it on the read again next year list.
I have tried to tell you as much as I could so that you would want to read this book, but not so much that I would give away too many secrets. You need to read this book and discover those secrets for yourself. The secrets are part of what makes it so special. Just a part. The way it is written is another part. It is even educational. I just cannot recommend this book highly enough. I understand it’s a movie, so now I need to see that to see if they did it justice and kept to the story. I’ll have to get Sarah to read this first before we see the movie, though.