By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Available through Allen & Unwin for $32.99
My edition of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society asks, in the top right hand corner of the front cover “When was the last time you read a book that made you feel really good?” My answer to this question is unfortunately slightly corny. It would be the last time I read this book.
It’s 1946 and Juliet Ashton has no idea what to do with her life. During World War Two she wrote a popular column for a London newspaper, which has now been published into a book. The story opens with Juliet on the promotional tour for the book, but at the same time searching for a more substantial idea for her next one. It is at this time that she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey on the Channel Islands. Through their correspondence, Juliet learns the origins of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was born during the German Occupation of the Channel Island, as a ruse for the people of Guernsey to share a roast pig which they had managed to hide from the German Army. Juliet’s correspondence soon grows to include the majority of the Literary Society, and she comes to learn more about their life during the German Occupation of the Channel Island and the long lasting effect that it had on the Society.
At first, the story seems to be heading in several directions, perhaps because the story is told solely through letters and telegrams, rather than straight narrative. Nonetheless, it quickly becomes clear that this is a story about the survival of those in the Literary Society, during the years of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands. Some might find it slightly sentimental, but I found the story of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and the extraordinary things many of them did to retain a sense of normality and safety in such uncertain times absolutely wonderful.
This book is best read with a cup of good English tea and biscuits, and possibly a box of tissues. Hopefully by the end of it you’ll agree with the question on its front cover, or at least be able to concede the book is a very good read.
By Laura Pietrobon
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