The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Published by:The Dial Press, New York
ISBN 978-0-385-34099-1
274 pages

I want to go to Guernsey. I want to eat a potato peel pie. I want to read this book again and again. I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. The characters and their experiences will stay with me forever.

It is a story of love, friendship, courage, and the power of the written word. A community of people is brought together as they endure the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WWII. Before the Allied forces ever freed them from their suffering at the enemy’s hands,their rescue from isolation and despair came in the form of an ordinary young woman and a hastily formed book club.

The format of the book is unique in that it is a collection of letters which cleverly gives the reader perspective from many different characters. We are not limited to only one viewpoint. The letters are funny, heartbreaking, and full of human emotion as they unfold a remarkable, bittersweet story. The reader is never left frustrated with gaps of information. The in-depth descriptions of the people, places, and experiences and the easy flow from one letter to the next are almost as satisfying as actually being an islander on Guernsey living among these lovable characters.

Too often, historical fiction can be heavy-handed in relaying the facts of the time period; characters sometimes have conversations that seem forced simply for the purpose of teaching history to the reader. That flaw is missing in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This book teaches in the most palatable way – people sharing their personal experiences. One word of caution: there are a couple moments of profanity in the letters.

Mary Ann Shaffer became ill and unable to finish writing the book and has since passed away. Her niece, Annie Barrows, completed it, but it is impossible to discern whose input is where. The voices and personalities of the characters remain constant throughout.

The GL&PPP Society has much to offer anyone who loves books, loves history, or loves at least one other person. It is an affirmation of the beauty of words, compassion, community, and the human spirit – even (or perhaps especially) in the face of evil.


GUERNSEY HISTORY AND TRIVIA» Guernsey Island is the second largest of the Channel Islands; it is also the western-most. It lies a mere 30 miles from France, and 125 miles south of England.
» Guernsey is the site of the Les Fouillages burial mound, possibly the oldest man-made structure in Europe.
» On June 15, 1940, in the midst of World War II, the British Government declared that the Channel Islands were of no strategic importance and would not be defended militarily. However, elected island officials were consulted on a plan to evacuate the islands. True to their iconoclastic heritage, each of the four islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Sark) chose a different strategy. Guernsey elected to evacuate all children of school age but gave the parents the option of keeping the children with them on the island, or allowing them to evacuate with their class.
» German reconnaissance planes saw a convoy of lorries in St. Peters Port (the capital of Guernsey) and mistook them for troop carriers; the subsequent bombing killed 41 civilians. In truth, the convoy was carrying tomatoes to the ships attempting to bring produce to Britain.
» The German forces landed on Guernsey on June 30, 1940 (the other Channel Islands followed over the next few days) and remained—heavily reinforcing the islands well beyond their strategic value—until May 9, 1945, still celebrated today as Liberation Day.
» There are two national animals of Guernsey: the Guernsey cow and the donkey. While the former’s position is self-evident, the latter was important due to the steepness of the ways in and out of St. Peters Port. It has also been said that the donkey was also tribute to Guernsey inhabitant’s stubbornness.
» Potato Peel Pie is not a delicacy of Guernsey, but should you visit you may enjoy a Guernsey Gache which is a bread laced with raisins, sultanas, and mixed dried peels … of fruit, not potato.


by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Back Cover:
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'd never met, a native of Guernsey, the British Island once occupied by the Nazis. He'd come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the- moment from arrest by the Germans.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society's charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever.

One of the ladies in my book club gave me this book to read.I'm so glad that she did. I haven't read a book quite like this one before. The story was put together with letters written by many different characters in the story. Once I got into the rhythm of this book I found it most amusing, very informative, funny and in some places quite fascinating.

I'm not a history buff and found the letters from this time period interesting and horrific at the same time. Because the letters were so personal, you could actually get the feel of what they went through back then in the concentration camps, as well as what everyone was doing outside the camps. I wanted to share a few funny comments from the book "Reading good books spoils you for enjoying the bad ones." and "Men are more interesting in books than in real life." This is just a peek into this amusing, informative story.

The main character of the book is Juliet Ashton, is a writer who wrote a weekly column for the "Spectator" during the war. Stephen and Stark Publishing published all her articles and called them "Izzy Bickerstaff Goes To War". It became an unexpected hit! Now Juliet was in search of her next book. It's interesting how the "The Guernsey Literary and Potato PeelPie Society" began and what they talked about at their meetings. The group consisted of men and women that attended their meetings and everyone talked about the different books they each had read that past month. You will be intrigued about the diversity of people that came to the meetings and the stories that they have to tell. I was really tickled by Juliet Ashton and her search for the topic of her next book and her editor/publisher Sidney. Sidney and Sophie are good friends that gently push Juliet to search her heart and go after her next story no matter where it took her. So Juliet follows her heart, and dug up as much research she could on this literary society. Again this book has things in it I just loved: books, book clubs and the people that are involved with them. I thought the authors, Mary Ann and Annie, did an amazing job of showing me some of the history during this time period - things that I wouldn't normally choose to read on my own. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be inspired by the unique ways this community comforted and encouraged one another during such difficult, almost impossible, times.

I want to leave you with one of the sayings from this book that really struck me - "That's what I love about reading: one thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will led you onto 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." Reader beware!! That is true with this book as well! There are so many things I want to know about because I read this book, and you will too. It's a keeper!!

Reviewed by : Book Club servant Leader


  1. This is some interesting history. Will check it out!

  2. I'm currently reading this book and I love it. Thanks Angela for sharing it!

    Gail Mundy