The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer)

May 21, 2019Hels

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”
― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Genre: Historical fiction

Page Count: 274
Published: 10 May 2009

My rating:

Plot:10 out of 10 stars (10.0 / 10)
Characters:10 out of 10 stars (10.0 / 10)
Ending:9.5 out of 10 stars (9.5 / 10)


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It’s 1946. The war is over, and Juliet Ashton has writer’s block. But when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – a total stranger living halfway across the Channel, who has come across her name written in a second hand book – she enters into a correspondence with him, and in time, with all the members of the extraordinary Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. 

Through their letters, the society tell Juliet about life on the island, their love of books – and the long shadow cast by their time living under German occupation. Drawn into their irresistible world, Juliet sets sail for the island, changing her life forever.

The story is told in two parts – during the first half, Juliet is in London, corresponding with the residents of Guernsey, and in part two, Juliet travels to Guernsey.

It took approximately one page of reading before I completely fell in love with this book. It is an epistolary novel (written in the form of letters), which is a style I don’t usually enjoy, but in this book, it works perfectly. There are a lot of characters in the story, which can be quite difficult to keep track of, but each person has a story to tell, whether it is shared through one letter, or several, and they all brought something unique to the story. There are obviously sometimes when the letters have to be overly descriptive – at one point Juliet thanks Sidney, her editor, for sending some red sequinned tap shoes – generally in a letter you’d be more likely to just say “Thanks for the shoes!” but naturally it’s more entertaining for the reader to get the extra descriptions!

I love reading war literature, I find it fascinating, but this was so different – I had no idea about the Occupation in Guernsey and it was so interesting to learn more about it. The stories about the relationships between the Germans and the residents of Guernsey was fascinating – I now really want to visit the island to learn more about it. The story is so descriptive, so vivid that I actually forgot it was fiction – I felt like I was reading about real people.

“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”
― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

There is something so wonderful about reading about other people who love reading, and about how it brings people together. The debates and discussions that went on at the Society sounded so entertaining – obviously now I want a Society like that to join!

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”
― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I loved the dynamics between the characters and seeing how their relationships unfolded and developed throughout the book. I think everybody needs a friend like Dawsey, and I loved Isola, her character was absolutely charming – I was laughing so much during her Miss Marple phase. It was great having additions such as Adelaide Addison in the story, I loved her scathing letters whenever they popped up!

The story is beautifully written, and once I finished, I discovered that due to ill health, Mary Ann Shaffer had been unable to write once the manuscript had been sold, and her niece, Annie Barrows had stepped in to make the changes the editor requested. I think this is such a lovely thing to hear, and it somehow adds to the heartwarming nature of the story. Mary Ann Shaffer had visited Guernsey where her interest in the Germans occupation during World War II began, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that she started writing this novel.

This is one of those books I want to read over and over again, and I want everyone else to read it so I can talk about it! It’s the book chosen for this month’s Blogger Book Club and I’m really looking forward to discussing it.

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