The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Review


There is not much to say bad about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one thing I would point out is that unless you are from the British Isles, have a dictionary nearby. Still this does not take away from the book; it only made my android phone’s battery run down that much quicker.

A book of letters on first blush did not seem like it would carry the plot about the German Occupation of Guernsey in WWII. It did and more. Shaffer (and Barrows who got the book to print after her aunt was no longer able to work on it and subsequently died) did a marvelous job of reenacting the life of the Guernsey inhabitants during WWII. It was a skillful portrayal of the interaction between the inhabitants, visitors (of which is Juliet, a visiting writer of the fictional book about the occupation, among others), German soldiers, imported Todt slave workers, Kit (the child born of Elizabeth, who later becomes a POW and sent off to a concentration camp), and a survivor (Remy) of the camp.

One of the letters (I believe from Juliet), spells out how atrocities committed in the camps just prior to liberation armies arriving and the conditions the liberating armies found on arrival were not easily talked about afterwards. This rang true for me. My father was part of the American forces that liberated Dachau.


Dachau (Photo credit: ho visto nina volare)

Until my family (as part of a choir trip) visited Dachau in the early 90’s, I (and I believe my mother as well) had no idea that my father had been there before. Before our visit, he had never spoken about his experiences. He did not know if he could return to the camp, even more than 40 years later. To my knowledge, he never watched anything that contained a reference to concentration camps. Nevertheless, he did watch movies about WWI and WWII.

Another thing that I loved about Shaffer’s book is the number of good reading suggestions. The novel is set around the sudden invention of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society after several of the main characters are to be brought before the German Commandant to explain why they were violating curfew. Poof! The society comes into being as the explanation and then continued to meet for the duration of the war and afterwards. The letters tell about the formation of the society, the members and their eccentricities (some of which are quite humorous), the landing of the Germans, the battle of the islanders and occupiers alike to eke out a living when a lot of what you have to eat is potatoes, turnips, and the flour made of bird seed.

Humor abounds in the book. I have always wondered how Sheldon on Big Bang Theory got treed by a chicken. Well, one of the letter writers found themself in the same position. It is told in riotous detail. Then, there is the claustrophobic parrot who gets shut up in a building with a letter-stealing thief who attempted to abscond with letters written by Oscar Wilde. Another incident involved one of inhabitants, Isola. She taught herself how to read head bumps and then moved onto being a private detective. Almost getting the wrong person hitched (married) convinced her to search for another hobby. Thank goodness for fate intervening!

Check out The Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Society for yourself. I am moving onto Daddy Long Legs, another book written via letters.