THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

GuernseyWhat a beautiful book.

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.  And so begins a correspondence which leads to the acquaintance of the lady author with the members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Told in epistolary style, (you know — letters?), the book is really about the German occupation of the Channel island Guernsey during World War II, detailing the hardships and friendships formed during that extremely difficult period.  The Germans had set stringent curfew rules, and by this time, food was scarce.  One woman had hidden a pig, and invited some friends and neighbors over on the QT to eat the forbidden pig.  On their way home, after curfew, some of the members were stopped by German soldiers, and one woman quickly and creatively came up with the tale that they had been attending a literary society meeting. The solders let them go without reprisal, asking if they might attend the meetings from time to time.  The people then had to go buy a bunch of books for veracity, and thus was born their society.  Food was so scarce that one of the members came up with a pie made of potato peelings.

The lady author eventually goes to Guernsey to meet her new friends, and the story revolves around her involvement with the people there.

It is a beautiful book, beautifully written.  It has two authors listed because the original author became very ill, and when her publisher required some extensive changes, she was unable to do them, and she asked the daughter of her sister, who by that time was a well-established author of children’s literature, (Annie Barrows) to finish the editing and rewriting.

A movie of the book is scheduled to be made, but has been put off pending decisions for the location of shooting.  Looks like the chick from Downton Abbey, Michelle Dockery, will be in the starring role.

Want a little info on Guernsey?  Of course you do, and I did a bit of research so that you didn’t have to, because that is the way I roll.  Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands, which are located in the (where else?) channel between England and France.  They are considered as the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy, and are not part of the United Kingdom. They are comprised of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou and Brecqhou.  Each has its own independent laws, elections, and representative bodies.

The UK Parliament has power to legislate for the Islands but Acts of Parliament do not extend to the Islands automatically. Usually, the Act gives power to extend the application of the Act to the Islands by an Order in Council, after consultation. For the most part the Islands legislate for themselves.  However, islanders are full British citizens

The name “Guernsey”, as well as that of neighboring “Jersey”, is of Old Norse origin. The second element of each word, “-ey”, is the Old Norse for “island.”

Guernsey has an area of about 25 sq. miles (approximently 5 x 7 miles), the islands were the only part of the British Commonwealth to be occupied by the German Army during World War II.

See how much you can learn just by reading fiction?

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One comment on “THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

  1. Deb Atwood says:

    I loved this book, too, and gave it to many friends as gifts. The family connection between aunt and niece is sweet as well. Thanks for the research. Though I’d visited Guernsey and knew of the Nazi occupation, I did not know the background with the UK.

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