The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Details

TitleThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 29th, 2008
PublisherThe Dial Press
ISBN0385340990
ISBN-139780385340991
Number of pages274 pages
Rating
GenreHistorical Fiction, Fiction, Historical, Book Club, Romance, War, World War II

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Review

  • Linda Sexauer
    July 21, 2008
    Several years ago, I worked at an art gallery here in Anchorage. Though I loved the art, I wasn’t much good at selling it. More often than not, I just chatted up the customers, who were from all over the world.One night, four elderly people wandered in. They told me they were from a tiny island off the coast of southern England called “Guernsey”. I’d never heard of it, so they proudly explained it was the only part of British soil that had been occupied by the Nazis during World War II. The isla Several years ago, I worked at an art gallery here in Anchorage. Though I loved the art, I wasn’t much good at selling it. More often than not, I just chatted up the customers, who were from all over the world.One night, four elderly people wandered in. They told me they were from a tiny island off the coast of southern England called “Guernsey”. I’d never heard of it, so they proudly explained it was the only part of British soil that had been occupied by the Nazis during World War II. The island was occupied for a long five years; an experience to which they had all been witnesses. At that moment, Guernsey was marked in my mind.Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s new book, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is an opportunity to travel back in time to 1946 Guernsey.Beginning early 1946 in London, Juliet Ashton, a British writer, and former war journalist, is emerging from the ashes of the war to rebuild her life and her identity. She has lost her home and all her possessions, most regrettably her book collection. Out of the blue, she responds to correspondence started by a resident of Guernsey, who has managed to obtain a second-hand book once owned by Juliet, in which she had long ago written her name and address. Through this initial contact, Juliet meets an entire community, and the course of her life is redirected.Easily reminiscent of Helene Hanff’s epistolary classic, “84 Charing Cross Road”, the novel is written in the epistolary style. Shaffer and Barrow skillfully use this medium to successfully establish their characters and a solid storyline.Charming, funny, sweet, and thoughtful, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a story that women might find more appealing than men. Yet, it is unflinching in its wartime recollections. The deprivations and devastation of the time are imaginatively and convincingly conveyed.At its core, this is a book about the love of reading, and the magic of books.I highly, highly recommend “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”.
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  • Megha
    March 8, 2009
    Dear Mary Ann Shaffer,I recently read your book 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'. It brought a few questions to my mind.Juliet writes in one of her letters: "Dear Sidney, What an inspired present you sent kit - red satin tap shoes covered with sequins" Didn't Sidney know what present he had sent?If you had to resort to sentences like these to speak what you wanted to, didn't you realize that the letter format and your writing didn't go well together?Learning from your bad exam Dear Mary Ann Shaffer,I recently read your book 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'. It brought a few questions to my mind.Juliet writes in one of her letters: "Dear Sidney, What an inspired present you sent kit - red satin tap shoes covered with sequins" Didn't Sidney know what present he had sent?If you had to resort to sentences like these to speak what you wanted to, didn't you realize that the letter format and your writing didn't go well together?Learning from your bad example, I will quit trying to be fancy, stop this letter here and write a regular review.A Reader.** Spoiler Alert **Novel written in epistolary format. Set in post WWII England.1946.Juliet is a 30-something writer living in London. (She is like this perfect human being who is universally loved. The only people who dislike even the smallest thing about her are the evil people). One day she receives a letter from a man living on Guernsey islands who found her address on a second hand book he had. Soon Juliet is exchanging letters with the members of Guernsey literary society and people talk about what books they like and why. Then suddenly everyone forgets about the books and Guernsey people start sharing their most intimate experiences from the time during the world war with Juliet, who is only a stranger. A few weeks later Juliet goes to the Guernsey islands to meet and interview these people. Of course everyone there just loves her (except the evil woman). She stays there for a few months and decides to adopt a four year old orphan girl she met there. The girl of course loves Juliet more than the people who have raised her. And then Juliet marries a pig farmer and settles down on the Guernsey islands.So much for the ridiculous plot. (I should have just known better, just look at the cheesy title.)It shouldn't be difficult for a decent writer to develop good characters when using a letter format, since each character gets his/her own voice. However, all the characters in this book seem to talk in exactly the same manner. Be it an accomplished writer from the city of London or farmers from a remote island, their letters sound just the same. Irrespective of whether the letters are being written to a close friend or to a complete stranger. Almost all of the characters have only a single trait. For some of the characters I can't recall even a single distinct characteristic.Mary Ann tries to have everything in one book. She has grazed the surface of numerous topics like books, world war, art, nature love, bucolic life, friendship, love, homosexuality, religion and so on. None of these get more than a superficial treatment. Stories about Nazi occupation of Guernsey don't tell you anything real about the war. They just revolve around this saint of a woman who died during the war while trying to show-off her heroism. To add to this drama, halfway through the book Mary Ann shifted the focus to Juliet trying to decide between different love interests (too many people love her, you know). Why is this book being marketed a historical novel?Another one of those recent successful books that everyone is raving about. I don't get it.
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  • Emma Kaufmann
    September 8, 2008
    Once again I find myself reading ten pages of a book which is meant to be 'great' and wondering why it is just rubbish. I was meant to read this for a book club but it was about as palatable as a potato peel pie so I spat it out uneaten.Now, I'm sure there are American authors who can write in an authentic British voice (no one springs to mind, and Elizabeth George is terrible at it but at least her plot is not clunky) but Mary Ann Shaffer isn't one of them.This book has an epistolary plot that Once again I find myself reading ten pages of a book which is meant to be 'great' and wondering why it is just rubbish. I was meant to read this for a book club but it was about as palatable as a potato peel pie so I spat it out uneaten.Now, I'm sure there are American authors who can write in an authentic British voice (no one springs to mind, and Elizabeth George is terrible at it but at least her plot is not clunky) but Mary Ann Shaffer isn't one of them.This book has an epistolary plot that just goes clunk clunk clunk.Firstly, it is set in London in 1946 where we meet a fairly posh author who, rather than using the polite and rather stilted language that people used in 1946 sounds like Sex in the City circa 2008.I mean, come on, Mary Ann, have you ever even read a letter from 1946?So, you have letters flying around in 1946 which sound like they were written sixty years later. How are you meant to get into this?Then of course, a man in Guernsey writes to this author woman, says he has found a book with her name and address written on the flyleaf, there are currently no books in Guernsey, can she procure him some from London? Of course the lady author sends this poor man in Guernsey some books and writes him long letters. As if.Note to Americans: posh English authors in 1946 would not have been quite this effusive to a person who wasn't even a fan of her books. Obviously this clunky device is meant to start a stupid story going about this guy in Guernsey telling her all about his experiences when the Nazi's invaded Guernsey. Save me. All about as authentic as a Hallmark movie about the Nazis.This book reminded me of the children's American Girl series which take periods in history, and have a girl heroine who gives a personal and hightly sanitized view of American history, but does a fairly good job seeing as the audience for these books is 6 to 10 year olds. But this book is meant to be for adults. Save me. This is WWII lite.Take this quote:"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” Or maybe someone bought it in a bookshop and took it to Guernsey?This sums up the tone of this tome. Twee beyond endurance.
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  • Beth F.
    October 6, 2008
    Gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush!!! GUSH!!!!! So yes, clearly I loved this book.I think the only person I wouldn’t recommend this book to is one of those people who only read meaty tomes that might give regular people a brain embolism while they’re trying to make sense of the 17 different layers of subconscious meaning. I’d also hesitate from recommending this book to most men. However, if you have the ability to find joy and delight in the simple pleasures of a feel-good book, you too m Gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush!!! GUSH!!!!! So yes, clearly I loved this book.I think the only person I wouldn’t recommend this book to is one of those people who only read meaty tomes that might give regular people a brain embolism while they’re trying to make sense of the 17 different layers of subconscious meaning. I’d also hesitate from recommending this book to most men. However, if you have the ability to find joy and delight in the simple pleasures of a feel-good book, you too might fall in love with this story. The book is written entirely in an epistolary format, consisting of letters back and forth between Juliet Ashton, a young author in 1946 London and several of her contacts and friends. It is just after WWII and people are trying to reclaim their lives and figure out if and how to move on from the tragedy of the war. Juliet receives an unsolicited letter from a man who lives on the island of Guernsey, one of the small islands situated in the English Channel between France and England (known for having loose regulations and financial secrecy in the modern world thereby making it attractive to fraudsters, money launderers and criminals, but that has nothing to do with this story and why it is enjoyable, I just couldn’t help myself from mentioning it). But anyway, Dawsey Adams of Guernsey acquires a used book that had originally been owned by Juliet. She had penned her name and address inside the cover and Dawsey decided to write her a letter to share how much he’d enjoyed her secondhand book and how reading books had helped several Guernsey residents cope during the time of the German Occupation of their island. Before long, Juliet is corresponding regularly with Mr. Adams and several other Guernsey residents, all who had been a part of the Literary Society. She learns that the Society was initially formed as a front to explain a broken curfew but eventually became a rewarding opportunity to meet with friends and discuss a love of books. Eventually, Juliet travels to Guernsey to meet her island pen friends and it was hard for me to put the book down and get any work done!The letters back and forth between Juliet and her friends gave the book a personal touch and it felt like we were being given an inside look into these peoples’ lives. I subscribe to the belief that letter-writing is a lost art form and appreciate books that are heavy on the letters and found the format enjoyable and easy to approach. There is also a very sweet love story in between these pages that made me sigh with contentment when the book ended. It was a highly satisfying read and I think that most book lovers would also enjoy this story.Even though most of us don’t write letters anymore, I think we will identify and be attracted to the notion of maintaining a long-distance correspondence with someone and developing a friendship with someone we’ve never even met (hello? Anybody chat/email with friendly strangers on the internet?) Juliet becomes quite close to her Guernsey friends and there was one passage in particular when she is finally embarking on her trip to meet her pen friends that rung true for me because it was eerily similar to the thoughts I’ve had on the occasion when I’ve met “net friends” who crossed that boundary to become “real life friends” and it’s that, “oh god, oh god, oh god, what if we don’t like each other? What if my words misled them? What if I’m not as interesting in person as they thought I was online?” ”As the mail boat lurched into the harbor, I saw St. Peter Port rising up from the sea on terraces, with a church on the top like a cake decoration, and I realized that my heart was galloping. As much as I tried to persuade myself it was the thrill of the scenery, I knew better. All those people I’ve come to know and even love a little, waiting to see—me. And I, without any paper to hide behind…in these past two or three years, I have become better at writing than living…On the page, I’m perfectly charming, but that’s just a trick I learned. It has nothing to do with me. T least, that’s what I was thinking as the mail boat came toward the pier. I had a cowardly impulse to throw my red cape overboard and pretend I was someone else.” As if I hadn’t already fallen in love with Juliet and her friends by this point, reading that passage actually brought tears to my eyes (not even kidding) because I knew exactly what she was feeling at that precise moment because I’ve been there before. So yes, I loved this book. It was beautiful and charming and a sheer delight to read. However, I think potato peel pie sounds disgusting and I wouldn’t want to eat it.
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  • Cayenne
    July 30, 2008
    This was one of the lovliest books I have ever read. I have read many books and seen many movies about World War II, but this one was the best. It was so real. I felt like I knew the characters and I wanted to run over to Guernsey to meet them in person. The stories about their experiences were so touching, not just because they were hard, but because the people were so brave. Horrible things happened to them, but I didn't feel traumatized reading about them. I felt uplifted at their endurance a This was one of the lovliest books I have ever read. I have read many books and seen many movies about World War II, but this one was the best. It was so real. I felt like I knew the characters and I wanted to run over to Guernsey to meet them in person. The stories about their experiences were so touching, not just because they were hard, but because the people were so brave. Horrible things happened to them, but I didn't feel traumatized reading about them. I felt uplifted at their endurance and hope, and love for each other. This book definitely joins the few books on my favorites shelf. (I seem to have a weakness for books written as letters.) 7/26/11 re-read and it was still lovely
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  • Alisa
    February 17, 2009
    I'm in favor of:-pig farmers as romantic leads-parrots named Zenobia who eat cuckoo clocks-women who do the askingI'm not in favor of:-strong silent types as romantic leads-adorable children-parrots getting more page time than goats
  • Ruth
    August 19, 2008
    I won an ARC of this book either from the NYer or from the publisher. I forget which, as it's been sitting around for a while.This epistolary novel is something I should have loved. I generally like novels in letters, it’s almost like peering into lighted windows at night as you pass, sewing the bits of life seen there into a coherent whole.It’s fun, this book, in its witty comments, sort of the way I wish I could talk all the time. Yet, about halfway through it began to pale. Everybody in the b I won an ARC of this book either from the NYer or from the publisher. I forget which, as it's been sitting around for a while.This epistolary novel is something I should have loved. I generally like novels in letters, it’s almost like peering into lighted windows at night as you pass, sewing the bits of life seen there into a coherent whole.It’s fun, this book, in its witty comments, sort of the way I wish I could talk all the time. Yet, about halfway through it began to pale. Everybody in the book writes witty letters, but they are all witty in much the same way. The authors have taken pains to write clearly different characters, but their manner of writing letters boils them down to the same soup.I also began to tire of all these characters who are characters. As in, “Isn’t he a character?" Just too many odd bits of spice milling around.Add to that, the unsatisfactory conclusion, where everything is tied up in the nice pink ribbon of The Happy Ending. My disbelief refused to be suspended.Still, if you enjoy a bon mot as much as I do, it’s a fun, if frothy, read.
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  • Tatiana
    August 19, 2010
    The words that immediately come to mind when I think of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are nice, cute and, unfortunately, hokey(ish). I certainly understand its popularity (#4 most popular book of 2007 on Goodreads!). There is a distinct air of wholesomeness, inoffensiveness about it, plus it is occasionally funny (in a cute, inoffensive way), with a bit of tragic war business thrown in. But it got tiring for me very quickly. From the moment the main character, Juliet, a young The words that immediately come to mind when I think of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are nice, cute and, unfortunately, hokey(ish). I certainly understand its popularity (#4 most popular book of 2007 on Goodreads!). There is a distinct air of wholesomeness, inoffensiveness about it, plus it is occasionally funny (in a cute, inoffensive way), with a bit of tragic war business thrown in. But it got tiring for me very quickly. From the moment the main character, Juliet, a young writer, came to Guersney to visit her pen pals, the whole story just got way too cute for my taste. Everyone on the island was so nice, so into doing the right thing, so in love with Juliet, I just couldn't stand it. They were not real people. Even the dark parts of the novel - about the war, occupation, and concentration camps - were sort of glossed over.The story simply needed more complex characters, more drama, edgier experiences. As is, it is your standard feel-good commercial fiction with no depth.
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  • La Petite Américaine
    September 28, 2008
    This book is boring, predictable, and pointless. Maybe the kind of thing that charms the sentimental. It's a series of letters in post WWII England between an author facing writers block and an island community who formed a book club during the German occupation. Eventually we meet the characters (who, oddly, have the same voice as the author in their letters) who come to describe one saintly, cliche, full of b.s. woman who held them all together during the occupation, while she manages to slap This book is boring, predictable, and pointless. Maybe the kind of thing that charms the sentimental. It's a series of letters in post WWII England between an author facing writers block and an island community who formed a book club during the German occupation. Eventually we meet the characters (who, oddly, have the same voice as the author in their letters) who come to describe one saintly, cliche, full of b.s. woman who held them all together during the occupation, while she manages to slap an overly-religious type, find the one good, true human Nazi and have his child (yep) and then die tragically simply by being her holier-than-this-earth self.Two stars for one of two well thought-out paragraphs buried among the 200 something pages. Blah. Sucked.
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  • Laura
    September 25, 2008
    A friend gave this to me with the recommendation, “You’ll LOVE this – it sounds like you!” I assume she meant because the main character is a witty book lover, not because she’s a critical spinster. I don’t dare ask.At any rate, this is easily one of the most charming books I’ve read in a while. Our heroine, Juliet, spent the war writing light pieces for a women’s magazine, and now she yearns for more substantial material. When she receives a letter from a Guernsey man who has in his possession A friend gave this to me with the recommendation, “You’ll LOVE this – it sounds like you!” I assume she meant because the main character is a witty book lover, not because she’s a critical spinster. I don’t dare ask.At any rate, this is easily one of the most charming books I’ve read in a while. Our heroine, Juliet, spent the war writing light pieces for a women’s magazine, and now she yearns for more substantial material. When she receives a letter from a Guernsey man who has in his possession a book she used to own, and finds out that during the war he belonged to a “Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” she’s intrigued. She writes him back. It turns out that at the beginning of the occupation (Germany occupied the Channel Islands from 1939-1945), a group of friends had gathered for a covert pork supper, only to have to make up some excuse for breaking curfew when a Nazi officer discovered them walking home late at night. The Literary Society was the result. Juliet begins corresponding with the various members of the society, but eventually decides she wants to go to Guernsey to meet them in person — as will you!! What a delightful assortment of characters — most of their letters made me laugh out loud, and several made me cry. Juliet’s letters are an absolute scream. Plus, as a bonus, you get an intriguing glimpse into what life was like for those trapped on an occupied island for the duration of the war. The hardships, friendships, and everyday heroism of the characters actually warmed my heart!My only complaint is that it wasn’t until page 61 that the author managed to write in a different voice. In other words, most of the characters sound exactly alike, as though the same person is corresponding with herself. Creating distinct voices is a trick for any author, but good ones do it far more successfully. And there’s one woman, a non-member of the Literary Society, who’s so absurdly interfering that she makes Mrs. Kravitz of “Bewitched” look like an Arthur Miller creation. But the rest of the book (ridiculous sitcom character aside) is delightful enough to make up for the contrived and often predictable aspects. A quick read that will leave you smiling...and wanting to go to Guernsey!
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  • Kelly
    December 22, 2008
    This book garners a 1.5 from me. What a painful read.I won't dwell too long on what makes this book so wrong, but let's start with the problem of how difficult it is for a GOOD writer to develop character via the epistolary form. Now for two mediocre writers, it's even worse. I distinguish no voices among the twelve million uninteresting characters. Second, how about the "plot?" There isn't one, and what is moderately plot-like is so loosely strung that it's impossible and laughable. The woman's This book garners a 1.5 from me. What a painful read.I won't dwell too long on what makes this book so wrong, but let's start with the problem of how difficult it is for a GOOD writer to develop character via the epistolary form. Now for two mediocre writers, it's even worse. I distinguish no voices among the twelve million uninteresting characters. Second, how about the "plot?" There isn't one, and what is moderately plot-like is so loosely strung that it's impossible and laughable. The woman's boss lets her skip town, not do her work, and then she decides she wants to adopt some kid she's known for a couple of months and then marries one of her subjects? That's unethical and gets people fired in the real world. Granted, it's the 1940s, but, I think that actually makes it less believable. The setting and timing of this story never come together, and descriptions of war are thrown in on the side for added drama. I should have stayed away when I saw the rave, run-on sentence of a review from Elizabeth Gilbert ( Eat, Pray, Love fame) giving this one glowing reviews. The book is not worth your time or frustration, as you can never really care about the characters or their half-slopped-together miss-mash of a story. Additionally, the language leaves something to be desired when it could have been so much more. The book HAS such potential but never gets anywhere near it. Feckless, really (feckless being the word I kept reading overandoverandover when it wasn't necessary).
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  • Will Byrnes
    May 17, 2009
    The GL&PPPS tells of Nazi occupation of this Channel Island during WW II. The story is told via a series of letters exchanged between residents of the island and a writer attempting to learn about their experiences. We are offered a wide range of characters, some warm and charming, some extremist buffoons, some heroic, some not so heroic. The core of the story is Elizabeth, a particularly brave and wonderful individual. She is the emotional heart of the tale, as the many characters all have The GL&PPPS tells of Nazi occupation of this Channel Island during WW II. The story is told via a series of letters exchanged between residents of the island and a writer attempting to learn about their experiences. We are offered a wide range of characters, some warm and charming, some extremist buffoons, some heroic, some not so heroic. The core of the story is Elizabeth, a particularly brave and wonderful individual. She is the emotional heart of the tale, as the many characters all have some experience that relates to her. Another important aspect is how all the characters relate around literature. Shaffer offers us a charming and wide-ranging palette of humanity trying their best to cope under very trying circumstances. As someone who knew very little about the occupation of the Channel Islands I found it educational as well as a fun read. I was reminded of Alexander McCall Smith, not, clearly, for the specifics of the location, but for the warmth of the authorial tone. The writers clearly care about their characters and this place the way that Smith hovers lovingly over his imagined Botswana. Sit back and enjoy. This is a delightful, informative, and satisfying read that celebrates the impact of reading on people’s lives.
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  • Amy
    December 27, 2008
    I don't do this often, but I am commanding my fellow Good Read Sisters to stop what they are doing, order a pizza for the family and hide yourselves away with this book! You all deserve a treat and if I could I would come run your homes while you read - this book is that good. It's unique - all letters - but please don't be put off by that. On the contrary, Shaffer is able to add an edge of humor with this device...and is she also paying homage to Anne Bronte and the Tenant...? [if you read it y I don't do this often, but I am commanding my fellow Good Read Sisters to stop what they are doing, order a pizza for the family and hide yourselves away with this book! You all deserve a treat and if I could I would come run your homes while you read - this book is that good. It's unique - all letters - but please don't be put off by that. On the contrary, Shaffer is able to add an edge of humor with this device...and is she also paying homage to Anne Bronte and the Tenant...? [if you read it you'll understand this question] And you all know how I feel about Anne.This is one of those great books that reminds us that the written word is a universal language that can speak to all of us, regardless of age or class. It reminds us why we read: to know that we are not alone. Enjoy!
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  • Dem
    May 24, 2011
    Have to admit when this book was recommended to me I was a little worried as for one I found the title strange and two I did not find the blurb very enticing. I am not going to try and sumarize the story as I feel I could not do it justice. I found this novel wounderful and I was lucky to be able to curl up on my couch while the wind and rain howled outside(end of May!!) and finish the last 150 pages of this book and enjoy it I did. The story of the occupation of Guernsey is facinating and reall Have to admit when this book was recommended to me I was a little worried as for one I found the title strange and two I did not find the blurb very enticing. I am not going to try and sumarize the story as I feel I could not do it justice. I found this novel wounderful and I was lucky to be able to curl up on my couch while the wind and rain howled outside(end of May!!) and finish the last 150 pages of this book and enjoy it I did. The story of the occupation of Guernsey is facinating and really well told in this book and the story of Elizabeth really stays with you. However would have given it 5 stars only felt characters a little confusing at times and also juliet story a little predictable and the fact that the islanders was to quick to trust Juliet and the responsibality they gave her a little unbelievable but again I am picking at staws really. There is so much in this book that makes it an excellent story and an education in itself and would have given it 4.5 stars if I was able to. This one is a definate case of "Dont judge a book by its cover". A wonderful read.
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  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    May 20, 2009
    The Second World War has ended and people across the world are picking up the pieces. It's 1946, January, and Juliet Ashton is on a book tour around England for her recently published collection of humorous columns that had been so popular during the war, Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War. She's not used to being a success and she does tend to throw things at people, but on the upside a very wealthy and attractive man keeps sending her flowers.A surprise letter from a complete stranger from one of th The Second World War has ended and people across the world are picking up the pieces. It's 1946, January, and Juliet Ashton is on a book tour around England for her recently published collection of humorous columns that had been so popular during the war, Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War. She's not used to being a success and she does tend to throw things at people, but on the upside a very wealthy and attractive man keeps sending her flowers.A surprise letter from a complete stranger from one of the Channel Islands, Guernsey, provides a new friendship and the germ of an idea for a new book. He, Dawsey Adams, had one of her books (works by Charles Lamb), which had her address on the inside cover. Her old address, her beloved flat that was bombed. The letter reaches her, and so begins a new friendship not just with Dawsey, but the entire community of St Peter Port and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.Intrigued by this amazing name, the story of the literary society's origins are revealed and soon Juliet is caught up in their story, and that of the island which was under German Occupation during the war. Everyone has a story, and one woman in particular shines through all their tales: Elizabeth McKenna, a resourceful and quick-witted young woman whom Juliet feels an affinity to.Told through letters between various characters but predominantly between Juliet and her publisher and best friend's brother, Sidney Stark, this poignant and bittersweet story is skilfully revealed and celebrated.I'm not normally a fan of books told through letters, though it's an unfair assumption that they must always be boring. A truly skilled writer can reveal much through letters - and Mary Ann Shaffer, who died just before the book was published, and her niece Annie Barrows who finished the manuscript when her aunt fell ill, have completed a remarkable book that I cannot recommend highly enough.This is a book that made me laugh, made me cry, and sometimes made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Yet it's not a morbid or sad book. Juliet is a delightfully funny woman whose teasing tone reminded me of one of my sisters; and the Islanders each have their own quirks and remind me of shows like Seachange and Hamish Macbeth - that small town, close-knit community feel. So much is cleverly revealed to us through their correspondence, things that the characters themselves, writing the letters, don't notice.It's beautifully written, slightly tongue-in-cheek and with that real British sense of humour - which is wonderful considering the authors are American. They really captured that tone, of the period as well as the place. There's also a great deal of subtlety, and an undercurrent of excitement, that completely beguiles you.There are stories within stories as the past and the present overlap, and the complex relationship between Islander and Occupier is gently explored, while the horrors of a concentration camp are lightly touched upon - the full import is there, but not thrust in your face. A light touch, this book proves, can be more powerful that a hard-hitting one.I felt close to all the characters in this book, who came vividly to life through these letters and their personal stories and adventures. It also makes me want to visit Guernsey! It's a quick, light read that will have you fully engrossed within the first few pages. A new favourite.
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  • Cathrine ☯
    May 30, 2015
    4.25★A group of connected stories told via letters about "how [people] held on hard to [their] kindness and [their] courage."Thirty-five of my GR friends have read this book, thirty-two of their ratings were 4 or 5 stars. I read all of their reviews but will not Like them for fear of causing a crash on the GR Home notification feed. Obviously a crowd favorite! It won several awards. So what can I add. It was delightful and charming, just wonderful. What a treat. A big thanks to those of you who 4.25★A group of connected stories told via letters about "how [people] held on hard to [their] kindness and [their] courage."Thirty-five of my GR friends have read this book, thirty-two of their ratings were 4 or 5 stars. I read all of their reviews but will not Like them for fear of causing a crash on the GR Home notification feed. Obviously a crowd favorite! It won several awards. So what can I add. It was delightful and charming, just wonderful. What a treat. A big thanks to those of you who recommended it to me.
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  • Srividya
    December 31, 2015
    To,The Art of Letter Writing,Current Status: LostAddress: UnknownDearest Friend,I am sure you must be really surprised to receive this message from me after such a long time. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me for this long absence and absolute neglect or will any reason I give you for this absence be taken as naught but excuses? I have failed and I accept that but you should know that you were never forgotten. In fact, many a times, I thought of writing to you, just like in the old day To,The Art of Letter Writing,Current Status: LostAddress: UnknownDearest Friend,I am sure you must be really surprised to receive this message from me after such a long time. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me for this long absence and absolute neglect or will any reason I give you for this absence be taken as naught but excuses? I have failed and I accept that but you should know that you were never forgotten. In fact, many a times, I thought of writing to you, just like in the old days, but what with the changes in time and advent of other means of communication, you were left untouched, simply waiting for the right moment to be loved as you were before. Ah my friend, do you remember how we used to go to the stores selling letter pads and how much we agonized together on the perfect pad for our letters? I still remember those good days and miss them a lot today. The sheer beauty in choosing the perfect pad to write our stories on, to send those thoughtfully created letters to our other friends and the agony of waiting for their replies and finally the exhilaration of receiving one, the rushing to one’s room for reading in privacy and the cycle of creating a reply for those messages. It was a beautiful time indeed and I am really sorry that it is now almost lost forever. I wish my daughter would know you my friend but her tastes unfortunately are different with the times, she prefers calling and talking. While I know that communication has become easy today, I still miss the beauty of those olden days. I know that you must be wondering as to why I am waxing poetic about the good old days of letter writing and must be shaking your head in confusion. You are right to wonder and to be confused and I do have a small secret to share with you. It is because of a book I read recently that I have realized just how much I missed you. Don’t hide your pain behind that smile, my friend, for I can see it even if you think me to be insensitive to have left you alone for so long. I cannot deny the fact that it took me a book to realise how much I had lost by abandoning you but trust me that the pain is mine as well, for I had lost something more precious than you had and I have to thank this book and its author for reminding me of the jewel that I had in my armoire of life. I can predict your next question. What book you ask and why did it affect me so, am I right? Well, it is the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which brought me back to you. Don’t laugh at the title my friend for the pages within the covers of this book are definitely more beautiful than anything I have ever read. Poignant and serene, this book talks about a book club formed in an island, out of necessity and filled with people who had never read all their lives. The narrator is an author who is in between books when she receives a letter from a member of this book club, who incidentally has found a book that was inscribed with her name and address. The member was reading a second hand book that he found in a library on that island.I can see the small smile playing on your lips as you read this and the mischievous twinkle in your eyes and I am sure that you are thinking of the same thing as I am, remembering our adventures of scouring second hand book stores in the town. Do you remember the sheer bliss we felt when we found a book that was simply beautiful? Do you remember how the shop keeper, who despite being barely educated and not knowing much English, used to tell us which books to buy and which to avoid? Do you remember the pleasure of spending the last of our pocket money in the middle of the month on books and rushing home to read who it belonged to and creating stories of how this book must have left their hands and come into ours? Ah those were really good days weren’t they my friend? I remember that shop keeper very well and how he knew that we didn’t have much money and used to tell us to borrow it instead of buying it and how he kept books for us, those that he knew would be of interest to us, telling the other buyers that it was sold out! He was a gem of a man, wasn’t he? And do you remember our going to the Sunday flea market to get books at a real pittance, haggling with those vendors, who knew us so well that they would haggle only for fun? And then on coming home, I remember that I used to rush to write of a letter to my friends on my purchases and other experiences and how like the best friend that you are, you would go readily to their addresses and bring back their replies that I would be waiting for. Treasures they were and still are, lying in the bookshelves of my home, waiting to be perused again, read again and treasured again.This book talks about all that and more. It is a wonderfully lyrical ode to both books and letter writing. While it is written around the aftermath of WWII, I believe that emotions expressed in this book is applicable to all times. The characters of this book are common people like you and me, with the usual likes and dislikes. The only difference being that they have withstood the war and are actually limping back to life. The prose as I said is lyrical and doesn’t falter one bit to hold the reader’s attention. In fact, you would want to read it as you would sip wine while you are out wine tasting; gently, sip by sip, filling your mouth and allowing it to flow to all corners and then swallowing it, so be sure my friend to allow each page, each para, each word to be experienced by all corners of your mind and soul and you will see just what a beautiful book this is. Like with any person, these letters contain joy, sorrow, heartbreak and love, in various forms. While reading it, I remembered what a faithful friend you were to listen quietly to my heart’s pouring and gave me such peace of mind. Whether it was the first tingly feelings of a crush or the angst and glory of being in love or even the pain and sorrow of heartbreak, you my friend were the first to know. Like a soothing balm you helped me get over each experience of mine, if it was bad and at the same time, you were the first to rejoice if it was a good one. Through this book, I realized that it was not just me but so many others who you have helped by just being you and I am both humbled and elated at having had you as my friend. Though modern communication systems have ensured that we are well connected with our loved ones, my dear friend, you shall be always cherished by me, merely because the pleasure and beauty of that angst and exhilaration in writing, waiting and receiving, is no longer there today.As much as I want to set time back again to ensure that you live gloriously, I know in my heart that it is no longer possible. However, dear friend, do not fret for you will always stay alive through the medium of books as long as there are authors who write in ode to you and your beauty.It's farewell now my friend but I bid you adieu with the promise that you won’t lie forgotten for long and I shall give you the place you deserve in my heart and mind.Your ever loving and faithful friend,Srividya
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  • Ij
    October 30, 2014
    This book is a fictional collection of letters, telegrams, and notes centered on an author, Juliet Ashton, who connects with the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Society). The letters are primarily about residences of Guernsey during the occupation by the Germany Army, during WWII.The Society came about due to friends being caught out, by the Army, after curfew. These friends had just enjoyed a meal of roasted pig, which was a novelty after the occupation. Not wanting to give the r This book is a fictional collection of letters, telegrams, and notes centered on an author, Juliet Ashton, who connects with the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Society). The letters are primarily about residences of Guernsey during the occupation by the Germany Army, during WWII.The Society came about due to friends being caught out, by the Army, after curfew. These friends had just enjoyed a meal of roasted pig, which was a novelty after the occupation. Not wanting to give the real reason for being out one of the group, Elizabeth, concocted the story of being at a literary club meeting.Juliet is looking for subject matter for a couple of projects and becomes interested in the people she communicates with in Guernsey. There are many interesting characters for Juliet to interact with and they seem just as enthusiastic as she is to correspond. Juliet finds enough information about Guernsey, the occupation, and the Society to complete volumes. This was a fun read, learning the many different characters, their personalities, how they dealt with the occupation, and how their lives faired after the war.If you liked 84 Charing Cross Road you will probably like this book, too.
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  • Chrissie
    July 23, 2008
    Wonderful book! Both light and amusing and serious, gripping and informative. This is a must-read for everyone; one of those books that is just so much fun to read.
  • Kim
    April 9, 2012
    Until I read this novel, my knowledge of the Channel Islands was limited to the breeds of dairy cattle which take their name from the Bailiwicks of Jersey and of Guernsey, the fact that the Islands are a tax haven and have a flower growing industry and my memories of the 1980s television series Bergerac. Thanks to the book, I now know more. In particular, I know that the Channel Islands were occupied by Germany during World War II. Given the geographical location of the Channel Islands, this doe Until I read this novel, my knowledge of the Channel Islands was limited to the breeds of dairy cattle which take their name from the Bailiwicks of Jersey and of Guernsey, the fact that the Islands are a tax haven and have a flower growing industry and my memories of the 1980s television series Bergerac. Thanks to the book, I now know more. In particular, I know that the Channel Islands were occupied by Germany during World War II. Given the geographical location of the Channel Islands, this doesn’t come as a surprise, but it’s something I hadn’t thought about before. *Set in 1946, the novel is in epistolary form and tells the story of an English writer who enters into correspondence with residents of Guernsey who make up the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This is an organisation which came about because some quick thinking was required to protect its members during the German occupation. The letters tell the story of the horrific impact of the occupation on Guernsey residents and the struggle to return to normal life after the end of the war. This is a book with plenty of quirkiness and charm. Indeed, it’s a bit like a literary equivalent of Doc Martin: plenty of warm-hearted, kooky characters living their lives in a seriously picturesque setting. Not that there’s anything wronge with that. I love charm and quirkiness. In addition, the account of life under German occupation is extremely moving and the tale of loyalty, courage and resilience in the worst possible situations is inspirational. Mary Ann Shaffer (who sadly died before the novel was published) was clearly a wonderful storyteller.However, as much as I was captivated by the charm of the narrative, this is not a perfect novel. The epistolary form is not easy to carry off and I felt that the voices of the different characters were not sufficiently distinct from each other. In addition, the voices of the characters at times did not appear to belong to 1946. Another problem for me was that the novel is a bit too easy and light to carry the weight of the very serious sub-plots: in particular (view spoiler)[the death of Elizabeth McKenna in a German labour camp and the fate of her young friend Rémy (hide spoiler)]. The author’s note written by Shaffer’s niece Annie Barrows (who wrote sections of the novel when Shaffer became too ill to continue with the writing) indicates that some substantial re-writing was required. I wonder whether this re-writing might have included the insertion of a romance, which felt a bit … I don’t know, rushed, maybe. In addition, the use of a character who is a labour camp survivor as a device to progress the romance sub-plot struck me as unnecessary. There were also smaller issues with the novel which took me out of the narrative. For example, there is reference to a plan adopt an orphaned child. It was suggested that approval for adoption or guardianship of the child would be a decision for a local lawyer to make. This struck me as implausible. A quick Internet search revealed that prior to 1960, children in Guernsey could be fostered or cared for but not formally adopted. As I write this I know how pedantic I sound, but I feel it is something I would not even have noticed if I had not felt myself to be less than 100% engaged with the narrative. My overall response is positive. In spite of the novel's flaws, the story is interesting, the characters are full of charm and the themes are uplifting. Plus, the novel has made me want to visit the Channel Islands, which is no bad thing. Indeed, I’m sure that this novel has been excellent for Guernsey tourism. In terms of a rating, this teeters between 3 and 4 stars. As always, I enjoyed sharing the reading experienced with my friend Jemidar. *Since finishing the novel, I’ve also learned from my well-informed friend Jemidar, that the British monarch bears the title of Duke of Normandy because the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey are British Crown Dependencies. I’ve also been reminded that Gerald Durrell’s zoo is in Jersey. There is clearly plenty to know about the Channel Islands.
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  • Jean
    April 11, 2013
    Don't let the title put you off. Or the fact that it has two authors (the second recruited apparently when the first, her aunt, sadly became too ill to complete it.) Or the fact that it is a series of letters, or what literary types call an "epistolary novel". Or the whispering on the grapevine that it's a cosy piece, mostly read by women. All these tended to make me hesitate. But I'm so glad I persevered.The book has a post-war setting, but much of the action refers to the Nazi Occupation of Gu Don't let the title put you off. Or the fact that it has two authors (the second recruited apparently when the first, her aunt, sadly became too ill to complete it.) Or the fact that it is a series of letters, or what literary types call an "epistolary novel". Or the whispering on the grapevine that it's a cosy piece, mostly read by women. All these tended to make me hesitate. But I'm so glad I persevered.The book has a post-war setting, but much of the action refers to the Nazi Occupation of Guernsey during World War II. I was dubious that American authors would really capture the feel of these times for Guernsey folk, or the nuances of life on such a small island. I was wrong.The island characters are a delight. The viewpoint character with her London-based world less so, though I appreciated that there needed to be a contrast here. Neither does the novel pull any punches when describing events in Nazi Concentration camps. To cover such a broad spectrum of experience and mood requires a skilful author, whom we have.Enough has been written elsewhere giving descriptions of this novel. It seems to be the sort of novel you either love or hate. I personally enjoyed it a lot and found it to have a unique angle on WWII fiction. There was one flaw however. I did find that the ending was somewhat hackneyed and totally predictable.Has it been made into a film yet? If not, I can guarantee that some bright spark will want to adapt it. I'm not sure the letter format will make for an easy transition. One can but hope.
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  • Laura
    October 7, 2008
    I just can't say enough about this book. I don't usually like WWII fiction, but this book is making me re-think that. A book for book-lovers, a book for someone who has always wanted to write a book, a book for lovers, for friends, for the historical fiction lover, a book of connection, a book of everything. Just everything. Read this book. You won't be sorry.
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  • Katie
    May 28, 2009
    When I first heard about this book, I assumed it was going to be yet another knock-off of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood--you know, an eclectic group of strong-willed, spirited women rely on each other through love, loss and everything in between. THEN I heard that the book is about WWII and tells the story of the Germans' occupation of the Channel Islands, which sold me--WWII is one of my favorite subjects. So THEN...I read the book, and it turned out I was pretty much right with my When I first heard about this book, I assumed it was going to be yet another knock-off of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood--you know, an eclectic group of strong-willed, spirited women rely on each other through love, loss and everything in between. THEN I heard that the book is about WWII and tells the story of the Germans' occupation of the Channel Islands, which sold me--WWII is one of my favorite subjects. So THEN...I read the book, and it turned out I was pretty much right with my first assessment. I can almost commend it for its slightly historical subject...but even that was so Zlata's Diary* it was hard to take seriously.Issues I Take With This Book:1. Can the authors try a little harder to show us just how spunky and free-spirited Juliet is? We get it. 2. Utterly one-dimensional supporting characters: The Kook, The Brooding Enigma/Love Interest, The Wise Grandfather, The Good Friend with No Life of Her Own, The Religious Zealot, The Caring Grandmother...3. Must Elizabeth be the biggest cliche EVER? And is she the most saintly, perfect woman who ever existed? The selfless, caring woman everyone loved made the ultimate sacrifice to save another.4. Have the authors ever been around a four-year-old? I suspect not, because if they had, Kit wouldn't exist...and yes, I'm talking about the touching moment when Kit reveals her previously off-limits treasure box to Juliet. OMG, how symbolic...it's like she's letting Juliet into her heart!5. Is Isola mentally retarded? I don't mean that to be offensive to anyone--I seriously don't get it. 6. The letter-writing schtick gets old. Who are all these people again? Do I need to remember who Clovis is vs. John Booker??7. Predictability. With the very first letter Dawsey wrote to Juliet, I was like "okay soooo they'll be together at the end of the book." I was TOTALLY thrown off with the Remy/Mark Reynolds debacle though! And that crazy misunderstanding?? I thought they would NEVER be able to unite as lovers after THAT mess. Um, or a simple "Oh, is that your fiance?" would have probably solved everything pretty quickly.The list goes on, but this should provide a bit of insight on the book's crappiness. I can't think of a single situation where this book is the answer--not if you want a WWII novel, a female-bonding book, a romance...no matter what you want to read, you'll always be better off looking elsewhere.The book did, however, inspire me to read more about the occupation of the Channel Islands, so hopefully that will be something positive gleaned from experience.*Does anyone remember this? Everyone hailed the diary of a little girl from Sarajevo as the next Diary of Anne Frank, but then it turned out that the publisher added a bunch of lines intended to pull at the heartstrings of consumers--I mean, caring readers--like "Oh, God, doesn't anyone remember us here in Sarajevo?"
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  • Cait • A Page with a View
    December 26, 2016
    3.5 stars. It's all very wholesome and heartwarming, but also a bit dull since every character's letters have the SAME tone. They easily could have been more developed & complex people. The idea of the whole story being told through letters and telegraphs is fun. And I love anything British. So I did enjoy this book, but still feel like it's a bit overhyped.
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  • PattyMacDotComma
    October 21, 2015
    5★I absolutely loved this. I think I’ve avoided it because of the cutesy title, but I’m glad I finally caved. It’s a delightful story written in an exchange of letters between newspaper columnist Juliet and some residents of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that is closer to France than Great Britain. They are an eccentric lot, to say the least.During WW2, Juliet wrote a light-hearted newspaper column to keep up British spirits. Meanwhile, during WW2, the islanders wer 5★I absolutely loved this. I think I’ve avoided it because of the cutesy title, but I’m glad I finally caved. It’s a delightful story written in an exchange of letters between newspaper columnist Juliet and some residents of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that is closer to France than Great Britain. They are an eccentric lot, to say the least.During WW2, Juliet wrote a light-hearted newspaper column to keep up British spirits. Meanwhile, during WW2, the islanders were cut off from all communication because they were occupied by German forces and practically starved out of their homes. There was nothing light-hearted about their lives, but they became resourceful and were still so inclined in 1946 when this book takes place.Juliet’s chatty letters sound like 1946 to me – friendly, silly, witty, puns, relief that the war is over. The letters she receives are unintentionally funny, because they are so unusual and written by people in some awe at corresponding with an author. She’s intrigued with the name of their society and is hoping to eke out some material for a column, so her replies are gentle and sensitive. Her correspondence with her publisher and friends is much less cautious.What follows is her visit to the island where she is put up in the cottage of a popular resident, Elizabeth, who has been imprisoned in a camp in Germany but who has left her 4-year-old daughter Kit in the care of the literary society.The islanders remind me of skittish animals – curious, shy, affectionate, reserved, suspicious – all those things, but mostly anxious to tell their war stories and share their new-found love for books in the hopes that Juliet will write honestly and kindly about them. The Literary Society was formed by accident, as a ploy to fool the Germans, but it has continued and has brought some surprising “book reports” as they take turns reading and discussing the classics. And I don’t mean Gone with the Wind - I mean Seneca, Charles Lamb, Dickens, the Bronte sisters. One member, a self-described tombstone cutter and carver (“lambs a speciality”) writes to Juliet explaining that most members had nothing to do with books since school, and probably only reluctantly then.“It was only by fixing my mind on the Commandant and jail that I could make myself lift the cover of the book and begin. It was called ‘Selections from Shakespeare’. Later, I came to see that Mr. Dickens and Mr Wordsworth were thinking of men like me when they wrote their words. But most of all, I believe that William Shakespeare was. Mind you, I cannot always make sense of what he says, but it will come. It seems to me the less he said the more beauty he made. . . . ‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.’ I wish I’d known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, planeload after planeload of them – and come off ships down in the harbour! All I could think was ‘Damn them, damn them,’ over and over again . If I could have thought the words, ‘the Bright day is done, and we are for the dark,’ I’d have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance – instead of my heart sinking in my shoes.”Juliet becomes increasingly immersed in their stories and their lives. This is just a remarkable book.
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  • Juliet
    July 6, 2010
    I love being caught up in a novel and drawn right into its world. It happens fairly rarely these days but with this book I was quickly captured (I haven't done any writing today as a result!)Set in 1946 in London and on the Channel Island of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Germans in World War II, the book is constructed entirely of letters, and develops the story of Juliet Ashton, a writer saddened and disillusioned by the war (during which she wrote humorous newspaper columns to keep reade I love being caught up in a novel and drawn right into its world. It happens fairly rarely these days but with this book I was quickly captured (I haven't done any writing today as a result!)Set in 1946 in London and on the Channel Island of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Germans in World War II, the book is constructed entirely of letters, and develops the story of Juliet Ashton, a writer saddened and disillusioned by the war (during which she wrote humorous newspaper columns to keep readers' spirits up) and a community of assorted readers on Guernsey, the Literary Society of the title. No description does this book justice. The story would have allowed whimsy and sentimentality, but the authors steer clear of this, using elegant prose, wit, a gift for capturing the individual voices of a fascinating cast of characters, and a warm humanity in dealing with, at times, grim and confronting material. I borrowed this copy from my daughter, but will buy my own copy. It's one of those books I know I will read again and again.Mary Anne Schaffer, a retired librarian, died before her novel was published. Her niece, Annie Barrows, did the editing and saw the manuscript through to publication. Mary Anne left us a novel full of warmth and heart. May the spirit of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - celebrating the power of reading to help us through hard times - continue to flourish.
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  • Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
    July 20, 2012
    I came so close to giving this book a pass. I dislike short stories, this one looked even worse in that the entire book is written as a series of letters, Yuk! Dead wrong...20 pages in I got used to the format & was completely hooked. It just sweeps you along in a gentle tale of how folks on a small island bonded together to survive the absolutely harrowing German occupation during WW2. Hard-hitting subject? You bet; but it’s laugh out loud funny with dialog as clever as any I’ve read since I came so close to giving this book a pass. I dislike short stories, this one looked even worse in that the entire book is written as a series of letters, Yuk! Dead wrong...20 pages in I got used to the format & was completely hooked. It just sweeps you along in a gentle tale of how folks on a small island bonded together to survive the absolutely harrowing German occupation during WW2. Hard-hitting subject? You bet; but it’s laugh out loud funny with dialog as clever as any I’ve read since ‘The Importance of Being Ernest” I wish I was clever & witty, what a lost art. My husband brings me flowers in the winter, the best I can come up with is “Nice hon, can you grab something I can stick these in?” Not Juliet… “Why I deserve to live in a bower, when everyone else has to be satisfied with bedraggled leafless trees and slush, I don’t know, but I’m perfectly delighted to do so.” Beautiful…You’ll enjoy despising characters like Miss Adelaide Addison, others you’ll adore. My personal favorite was Isola Pribby; self described as raw-boned & ugly with a fondness for the Bronte girls – poor lambs. Anyway, if you want to immerse yourself in a delectable book, you’ve found it.
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  • Mona
    January 31, 2015
    Review of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" Book Lovers on a Bucolic Island This novel has some things in common with Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry(Here's my review of that book: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... )It's a sweet story about eccentric and loveable book lovers on a pretty, isolated island where time has stopped and people are nicer, more civilized, and more neighborly than they are in today's world. It's also about ordinary people who fall Review of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" Book Lovers on a Bucolic Island This novel has some things in common with Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry(Here's my review of that book: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... )It's a sweet story about eccentric and loveable book lovers on a pretty, isolated island where time has stopped and people are nicer, more civilized, and more neighborly than they are in today's world. It's also about ordinary people who fall in love with books.Of course, it took place right after World War II, so I suppose times were different then. In some ways, people were more innocent at that time.This is an epistolary novel. That is, the entire novel is composed of letters and telegrams between the various characters.Juliet Ashton, a young London writer and the protagonist of the novel, receives a letter from a man living on Guernsey Island. He has a book of Charles Lamb's essays, which has Juliet's name and former address inside (her old apartment was destroyed by German bombs). The man, Dawsey Adams, asks for help finding a biography of Lamb, and mentions that he's a member of the only book club on Guernsey.Juliet replies to Dawsey's letter and sends him a book about Lamb. As a result, she receives letters from other members of the Society. There are so many fascinating stories about the Society, the German occupation of Guernsey, and the members, that Juliet decides she wants to write a book about them and she embarks on a trip to Guernsey, a British Channel Island which is actually closer to France and is clearly influenced by French culture.Juliet is encouraged and supported by her long time friends, Sidney Stark, her publisher, and his sister Sophie. Mark, the confident and self-centered American she is dating, tries to prevent her from going to Guernsey. However, she resists his attempts to stop her and insists on going. (view spoiler)[ She also sidesteps his proposal of marriage. (hide spoiler)]The members of the Society, who have been corresponding with Juliet, are delighted to welcome her to Guernsey and make her stay comfortable. These members are a motley crew and include Dawsey, a pig farmer; Will Thisbee, who originated the potato peel pie during the War when food supplies were scarce; Isola Pribby, a kind and eccentric middle aged lady who gathers and sells herbs and vegetables and makes herbal potions; Amelia Maugery, an elegant lady in her sixties and one of the original Society members; Elizabeth McKenna, who started the Society; Eben, an old Guernsey farmer; John Booker, a half Jewish actor who reads Seneca and impersonated a British noble during the war to stay out of the German camps; and Elizabeth's daughter, Kit. There is also Remy, a French concentration camp survivor who comes to visit.Juliet is captivated by Guernsey and the Society and has various adventures there. She receives several visitors from London, including Billie Bee Jones, Sidney's new secretary, serving as his emissary; and Sidney himself.It's a sweet and humorous tale.The audiobook was somewhat ruined for me because the library MP3 skipped to the end, so I knew beforehand how it ended.I liked the book, but only gave it three stars. As in "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry", I found the tale to be a little saccharine. The authors take the edge off the very real suffering that occurred during the war. Everything is viewed through rose colored glasses. That being said, it was still an enjoyable read.The audio was read by various readers, who did a nice, but not outstanding job.
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  • Mark
    August 24, 2011
    This was a really clever gradual unfolding of friendship and the suffering undergone by the captive population of Guernsey during the occupation of the Third Reich during the early 1940's. Its all recounted by letters and as a result of this I have seen it compared favourably and unfavourably to ' 84 Charing Cross Road ' and its letter technique but this is surely an unfair comparison as the latter is not a novel recounting an imagined story and imagined love and friendship which can always have This was a really clever gradual unfolding of friendship and the suffering undergone by the captive population of Guernsey during the occupation of the Third Reich during the early 1940's. Its all recounted by letters and as a result of this I have seen it compared favourably and unfavourably to ' 84 Charing Cross Road ' and its letter technique but this is surely an unfair comparison as the latter is not a novel recounting an imagined story and imagined love and friendship which can always have twists and turns to tweak the heart strings but rather a true account through the letters of a man and women coming to sympathy and friendship through the books they hunt and find. This novel, for such it is, is a quite different creation. A writer is contacted by a man from the island who has come into possession of one of her books and, using the address in the flyleaf( see mum there is some point to doing that even if in pencil ), he writes to her and thus begins the narrative as through his and her letters and those of the other members of the eponymous society this incredible recounting of german occupation and cruelty, german courage and generosity, islander decency, courage and love, islander snobbery, blind stupidity and predjudice opens out. The thing I found impressive is the letters did resonate with different voices which was wonderful this being a hazard sometimes not overcome in books where a number of narrators contribute. The one caveat in my song of praise, well two actually, firstly i did wonder whether there were slightly too many letter writers and that subtracted from the overall affect but that would be a very minor criticism the larger would be concerning the character of the island bitch who wrote a number of ridiculously stupid letters dipped in bigotry and predjudice; i don't think I am particularly innocent or naive and know, sadly, that i am not unusually pleasant but I always find this type of blind bigotry and rudeness unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, I realize there are horrible people around but in novels of this type the petty viciousness and cruelty seems to be there more often to move plot along or to creat a hiss boo pantomime villain then to fill a genuineaspect of human reality.Having said that, this was a book I really loved. It was astoundingly moving and heartbreaking in parts, the journey of the main characters to ' fulfillment' was emminently satisfying and believable and the humour expressed in the letters was sometimes laugh out loud funny. I think it is so worth reading if you want the opportunity to smile, laugh, sharply intake breath, whimper, sob out loud and then smile some more...not necessarily in that order but you get my drift. I promise you, you will be smiling at the end.
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  • Annalisa
    March 4, 2009
    I really wanted to like this book more. It's set in post-Nazi-occupation and everyone seems to love it so it seemed a sure thing to me. It started off very promising with fun charming characters and enticing writing. I just loved Juliet's passionate fervor for life and found myself often smiling at her antics. And I loved Adelaide Addison's uppity nose in everything. I was sure I was going to love this.But then Juliet set off the Guernsey to meet a whole society of quirky individuals who at firs I really wanted to like this book more. It's set in post-Nazi-occupation and everyone seems to love it so it seemed a sure thing to me. It started off very promising with fun charming characters and enticing writing. I just loved Juliet's passionate fervor for life and found myself often smiling at her antics. And I loved Adelaide Addison's uppity nose in everything. I was sure I was going to love this.But then Juliet set off the Guernsey to meet a whole society of quirky individuals who at first were endearing, but eventually were just too much to be convincing. There is a fine line between quirky being fun and too much. This book I'm afraid crossed the line for me. I love a free spirit set against the rest but I never believe it if everyone is that way.Everyone seemed to love Elizabeth, but I found her irresponsible, especially to attack a Nazi guard when she has a child waiting for her at home. I found myself just wanting the story to be over because I didn't believe these characters could have existed, much less a whole island full of them. I flipped to the author's info and could picture them in some anti-war protest during the sixties and that is what I saw reading this book: what a child of the sixties thought of war, and not what people two decades before saw.I enjoyed the writing style of different letters capturing a picture of these lives, especially the telegrams, but it seemed a hard medium to capture the story. There were a few instances where a gift was given or a person mentioned that the addressee of the letter would been familiar with but the authors needed to preface with information so us real readers would understand. This downfall made the letters not feel authentic, but overall it was a great technique. I just wish at the end they had not abandoned the style to tell the story from a journal entry. It made the story feel rushed. I could almost pinpoint the moment the authors changed hands and Shaffer's niece rushed to get her story out.Overall the story was sweet, but forgettable. For as crazy and vibrant as the characters were, they didn't leave a lasting imprint on me.
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