the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

The Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has one of the oddest (and longest) titles of any book I’ve seen. This, combined with that fact that it tells its story through a series of letters (a format which has not always worked for me in the past), made me a little wary of the novel.  However, I kept hearing so much positive buzz about it that I couldn’t help but pick it up.  And now I’m going to add to that buzz.

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have put together a wonderfully colorful story based on the German occupation of the English island of Guernsey during World War II.  Set in the aftermath of WWII, GLPPPS  introduces us to London writer and book lover Juliet Ashton, who happens to searching for the topic of her next book after the successful publication of a collection of humorous wartime columns.  She one day receives a letter from a Guernsey resident named Dawsey Adams, who found her name and address in a used book he bought.  Guernsey, he explains, is still dealing with shortages following the German occupation, and he wondered if she knew of a book store he could contact in London that might be able to send him more of Charles Lamb’s books. 

Thus begins Juliet’s correspondance with the members of the GLPPPS.  Through Dawsey, Juliet begins to correspond with several members of the society, each of whom has a number of occupation stories — some tragic, others hilarious — and develops a fascination with the island and its people.  The characters are intricately developed, each with his or her own quirks and history, andbefore long, reading their letters begins to feel like reading the correspondance of close friends.  The smaller stories begin to shape a larger one that shows how the society members, some of whom were virtually strangers before the war, have become a family of sorts.

And as vivid as the characters seem on paper, the recording of GLPPPS carries that sensation further.  I listened to most of this book on audio (the last disc was damaged, so I finished the book on paper), and the distinctive voices created by the authors were truly brought to life by a cast of gifted narrators.  Each character became entirely real to me; when I left the audio version and read the final chapters, I could still hear the voices as I read. 

Throughout the novel, Shaffer and Barrows weave wit and heartbreak, humor and hardship to convey both the humanity and the tragedy of wartime and its consequences.  The result is a hilariously moving portrait of a small community and a lovely story of friendship and recovery. 


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~ by Molly on September 22, 2009.

2 Responses to “the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society”

  1. I was completely swept away by this book -I’m so glad you liked it. It earned a spot in my all time top 10, the order of which I suspect I can never determine, but GLPPPS is definitely one of them!

  2. Thanks so much for the great review and for mentioning the audio version. I had started reading this, but for time reasons, switched to the audio….I totally agree with your assessment of the impact the different narrators made in bringing these characters to life. Those voices will stay with me as I re=read this one over and over..

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