Finding yourself at home

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Image by Timothy Valentine via Flickr

I had heard of this book, but never had the chance to read it, until someone I got in touch with on BookMooch found out I have a family connection to Guernsey, and recommended it. I am really grateful to her!

21. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

So I still haven’t written up numbers 18 and 19 on the booklist, because of their topics of war and destruction, and yet I really enjoyed this book, even though it’s decidedly set in the aftermath of war and destruction. This is an epistolary novel, and I wonder might that have something to do with it – people are telling others what happened, and there’s a certain level of reserve and protection involved, although at least some of the horrors of Nazi occupation and the concentration camps are shown clearly.

The novel is set in (or at least the letters are from) 1946 in London (with a brief tour of the British mainland) and Guernsey, where lives are being rebuilt after the horrors of war. Juliet Ashton is enjoying the success of a book based on the newspaper columns she wrote during the war, but not at all sure what she’s going to write about next, when she somewhat randomly receives a letter from a Guernsey-man who has bought second-hand a book she had sold a duplicate copy of. She is intrigued by his mentioning the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and its coming “into being because of a roast pig we had to keep secret from the German soldiers” during the island’s Occupation and continues the correspondence both with him and other Society members. She also continues to correspond with old friends and others, and we are thus given a fairly rounded picture both of her and the Society.

I laughed out loud at several points, and cried a couple of times. The voices are distinguished (some more than others, but there’s a level of realism in that) and believable, and the characters are worth caring about (even the ones we might love-to-hate). Considering the lack of contact between the Channel Islands and Britain during WWII itself, the level of explanations required for the modern reader without specific local knowledge of the history is reasonable, and eye-opening. Another area for me to look into the ‘real’ history!

This is one I’m pretty sure I’ll be rereading more than once.


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4 Responses to “Finding yourself at home”

  1. kloppenmum Says:

    I can see you’re going to be putting a dent in my sleeping time! It’s the only time I get to read, and I miss reading. A lot. Living vicariously through your’s at the moment. 😉

  2. kloppenmum Says:

    That’s a great idea, except I can’t stop once I’ve started. Unless the book actually falls on my head because I’ve dropped it in bed, I will read until the thing is finished. It doesn’t matter how tired I am or what I have on the next day.
    I think I have a problem.

    • kaet Says:

      Ah, well I have the same problem (and come by it honestly, via my mother), but at the moment I don’t have to get up and out at a particular time each day, so it’s not really a difficulty. At other points in my life I’ve had to be more disciplined about not reading in bed.

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