Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

We live in a time when algorithms drive entertainment. Every choice you make is another step towards similar recommendations. If you’re not careful, the Almighty Hive Brain of the internet will serve you an unending chain of similar franchises. That way lies monotony. That way lies your 6th supernatural procedural in a row. Breaking away from the recommendation-loop requires conscious effort.

I love a good fantasy – epic or urban – or a quality sci-fi – modern or futuristic. But while I do need a refresher on the Lord of the Rings every few years, I have also watched every Jane Austen Film adaptation I can find. For my money, the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is the best. This streak in me, and a recommendation from my wife, led me to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, co-authored by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Written in epistolary style (like …Time War…), …Guernsey… examines the human cost of war and our enduring spirit through the voice of the survivors of the channel island occupation.

The Basics:

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Slice-of-Life
Publisher: Dial Press, 2008

Spoiler-Free Summary

Juliet is an author, coming into womanhood in London immediately after the end of World War 2. She made a name for herself – well, for her pen name – writing a humor column about British life during the Blitz. When we meet her, she is on a book tour for a collection of the satire that made her famous, all the while struggling to find her next project, which she desperately wants to write in her own voice.

A German marching band in St Peter-Port, Guernsey.
Photo: Imperial War Museum (Public Domain).

Things are going well. She meets a man – a rich American, and a publisher no less – who is crazy about her (or… is it just the idea of her?). Just as Juliet’s feet seem firmly set on a particular path, she receives a life-changing letter.

A man from Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, found her address on the inside cover of his favorite pre-loved book, and writes to ask for her help finding a rare book by the same author. This is the beginning of not only one but several long-distance friendships which will change Juliet’s life forever.

Why This Book is For You

Do you like your romance slow-broiled on low heat from sunup to sundown, so that the much-anticipated meal transcends dining to the level of ritual? This book is for you. Both the romance and the mystery of what life was like on the island during Nazi German occupation unfolds one tantalizing corner at a time.

Actual photo of this book’s soul. (Photo by Miguel on Pexels.com)

The characters in Guernsey… are each delightfully quirky in their own way. Just when you think you know them, they find a way to surprise.

History often focuses on grand events and international movements. While epic, it can feel a little impersonal if you don’t force yourself to pause and consider every number, every statistic, as a human being. If you prefer your history examined more personally, parsing out the emotional impact on individuals, this title is a powerful example.

Where Can You Find More?

Both Barrows and Shaffer have their Amazon pages. This title receives a mention on this blog about English historical fiction. If you’re not convinced enough to get the book but want to know what happens to Juliet (*sigh*) I suppose you could check out the 2018 film adaptation. It is pretty faithful to the original material, and as of this writing is on Netflix.

As always, happy reading, and happy writing.

_____________________________________

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