Review of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I can’t tell you how long I resisted reading this “book with the funny title.” Wrong yet again! All that time I missed out on this heartwarming valentine to books and reading, and wonderful paean to hope and love.

guernseypotatopeelpie

The fictional literary society of the title was formed of necessity to outwit the Germans during their World War II occupation of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, strategically located between Britain and France. A group of friends got caught socializing after curfew and one of their more enterprising number came up with the Society as an excuse. The Germans appeared interested, and so the friends kept it up just in case the enemy should drop in for “meetings,” which indeed they did.

Subsequently, the lives of all members were transformed by the books they read. Their correspondence with one author in particular, Juliet Ashton (whose letters, notes, and telegrams form the core of the book), changes them all yet again, after Juliet can’t resist coming to Guernsey to meet the people who have been writing to her and learning more about them.

Some of the books discussed and the characters who read them include:

Dawsey Adams – Selected Essays of Elia; Biography of Charles Lamb
Isola Pribby – Wuthering Heights; Pride and Prejudice
Amelia Maugery – The Pickwick Papers
Eben Ramsey – Selections from Shakespeare
Clovis Fossey – Poems by Catullus
John Booker – The Letters of Seneca
Will Thisbee – Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present
Jonas Skeeter – The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Augustus Sarre – The Canterbury Tales
Kit Hellman – Elspeth the Lisping Bunny

Evaluation: Don’t let the quirky title of this lovely book, told in epistolary form, dissuade you from picking it up. You will enter an charming and inspirational world of bravery, hope, survival, literature, and above all, love.

Rating: 4.8/5

Note to readers: This review is part of my ongoing series, “Probable Last Person in the Universe to Have Read This Book.”
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30 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you finally read and loved this book! It was my favorite for 2008. There was just so much to love and I adored the characters.

  2. This was one of my favorite reads this year. What I love about your review is that you actually listed the books the characters read. Never seen that done! I listened to this on audio, so for anyone out there that likes to listen to a book, this is one of the best. Each character had a different narrator, which made the story larger than life.

    I’m chuckling at your series title. I could probably get in on some of this last person stuff. I always feel I am a day late and a dollar short!

  3. So glad you finally got to read and enjoy ‘The Potato Book’! I loved it, too and even ended up buying a copy for my mother. This is a great idea for an ongoing series…seems like many of us often feel behind on the ‘popular titles’.

  4. I enjoy your ongoing series!

    And I’m glad you liked this – I resisted reading it too until I found out it was epistolary, and then of course I had to read it that very instant. I had no idea before reading this book that the Channel Islands had been occupied, and I want to read more about that now.

  5. It really is a fantastic book. And as I have been telling everyone who reviews this book, the BBC did a great dramatic series about life in the Channel Islands during WWII. It was called “Island at War” and is definitely worth checking out.

  6. Like you, I resisted reading this book for a long time because of the title! And, again, like you– loved the book once I finally read it.

    I loved Isola’s opinions on “Wuthering Heights” and “Pride and Prejudice”, and what the society members thought of the books they read.

  7. Jill,
    Didn’t realise that you had not read this. It is a lovely book that I enjoyed greatly. Even got my daughter to read it!
    Rita

  8. You are tempting me on this one. I actually have a copy but it’s buried in that big pile. Your list of books the fictional characters read is a great teaser for me. I want to know what those “people” thought of those books. Great, encouraging review. Thanks.

  9. Just so you know, you aren’t the last person in the world to read this. I am!! It’s on my shelves, though.

  10. You could possibly be the last person to read this one! LOL Even my mom has read it. I loved this book and longed to go to Guernsey after I read it.

  11. I wrote this same thing in your blog last post – I have not yet read this book. It’s on my TBR list and I am looking forward to reading it soon. I am always happy to read post by bloggers I respect that confirm a book is worth reading. Your one sentence description of the book is wonderful!

    By the way, I like your pic that goes along with the title “Probable Last Person in the Universe to Have Read This Book”. My husband saw it and asked if I was reading an article about the galaxies or the universe! lol (He’s a fan)

  12. Loved, loved, loved this book! We read it for book club last year and everyone thought it was wonderful!

  13. I’m sorry, but it seems that every single time you post this feature I’m going to be forced to go “Nope, I’M the last person” :P I’ve been meaning to read this one, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to love it.

  14. Glad to see you loved this book. I thought it was pretty great as well.

  15. It’s another good book that I loved too! Someday I’ll have to actually pick up a copy for my personal library (I borrowed it when I read it).

  16. This is one of my favorite reads for this year. I’m so glad that you finally read it!! It’s magical isn’t it???

  17. I’ve been hearing lately that I ought to read it. I usually run from anything popular, but this one’s starting to break through that barrier.

  18. Et tu, Rhapsody? Et tu?

    Well, you’re not the last as I have not read this either but it is on my list to read in 2010 as I cannot stand to hear about how great it is anymore without experiencing it for myself. Seriously, no one has said anything bad about this book!

  19. Did anyone not enjoy this book? Is it possible that it really isn’t too good to be true? That it is just that awesome for real? Because I haven’t read it yet for fear of a let down from the hype.

  20. It really is that good although it did take me 10-20 pages or so to get totally sucked into it. At first I had a hard time figuring out who was who and what was going on. As usual for me. And I have heard a bad thing about this book which consists of reports from a few book clubs whose hosts tried to come up with a potato peel pie and it tasted really, really bad. Personally I think I would prefer using “pretend” potato peels, i.e., thinly sliced apples. Not a bad idea, yes?

  21. Are you planning a trip to Guernsey? It made me want to pack and take off…even though there’s probably not much to see other than a bunch of cows.

  22. oh gosh.. this little morsel is begging me to read it.. I must grab it and do so. I am glad you liked it. I have NO idea what my hesitation has been. ;)

  23. Glad you caved. I adored this book! I hope it’s okay that I linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

    –Anna

  24. I am thinking of using this book for our next Word Shakers on line book read. I am glad to see another good review on it!

  25. Oh, I absolutely loved this one — and just finished reading it a few weeks ago! It’s definitely stuck with me. Your list of who read what in the novel is awesome! Definitely a gorgeous book.

  26. see…there are one or two let to read it! slackers that they are..lol

    better late than never to read what is, I agree, a great book.

  27. I thought this book was just charming. I flew through it then I wished I would have taken my time!

  28. Hey Jill….I am so glad you finally broke down and read this. Wasn’t it great?
    I never reviewed it, but I loved it, loved it….and loved it.
    Hope all is well. I have to catch up with your blog…been away.

  29. I am reading this sweet book at the moment. It has captured me (once I got over feeling that I would never keep up with the who’s who challenge.)

    I found your site today while looking to see if there actually IS a book titled “Elspeth the Lisping Bunny.” That title has my grandaughter written all over it! I’m hoping to actually find one. Does anyone know, is there such a book?

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