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

Dial Press, a Division of Random House, Inc., 2008. ISBN 978-0-385-34099-1.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 01/27/2009

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Mainstream

I wasn't certain that a novel composed of letters could hold my interest, but hold my interest it did. The time is January 1946. London is recovering from the bombings in World War II. Writer Juliet Ashton is living in temporary quarters after losing her home and all of her books to the bomb attacks. She is at loose ends when she receives a letter from a man on Guernsey, one of the British Islands which had been occupied by Nazis.

The man found her name and contact information on the flyleaf of a second hand book by Charles Lamb and is hoping to find more information by and about Lamb. Charmed and curious, Juliet begins a correspondence with him and his friends in the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. As they exchange letters, she becomes intrigued by the members of the Society and their stories about occupied Guernsey. She has found the source for her next book and sails to Guernsey to meet her new friends. The Islanders' stories about the Occupation as well as her correspondence with her publisher and his sister, Juliet's best friend, create the framework for a tale of love, sadness, hardship and new found joy. There is a Jane Austen quality about this novel fraught with misunderstandings, stuffy spinsters and much humor.

The late Mary Ann Shaffer passed away before the book's publication, knowing it would be published in several languages. Her niece, Annie Barrows, needed only to give it some finishing touches. It is a loss to her readers that Ms. Shaffer did not begin her writing career earlier. Not only is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a joy to read, it reminded me of the hardships endured by those living through a war.

Mary Ann Shaffer was an editor, librarian and book store employee in West Virginia. This is her only novel. Annie Barrows is also the author of the Ivy and Bean series for children and The Magic Half. Visit the book website and Annie's website.

(See other reviews of this book, here and here)

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