by Mary Ann ShafferAnnie Barrows
Published by Dial Press
On July, 2008
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Literary
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January Book Club had us reading The Guersney Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I kept putting off reading this one because I had it confused with a novel I had downloaded from Audible and found incredibly boring. As it got closer to the date and time I panicked and knew I had to read at least a few pages so I could carry on a half-way intelligent conversation at book club. So the day before we were to meet I downloaded a sample and quickly realized this was not the boring novel I thought it was.
An epistolary novel, so much was revealed about each character through the various letter writers. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows did a fabulous job of creating a unique “voice” for each character, a challenging undertaking given all the different letter-writers. Learning about the German Occupation of the little island of Guernsey, the starvation of not only residents but the German soldiers as well, and how the residents sent their children away for FIVE years. . .the individual letters allowed me to feel like I was a good friend, a part of the Literary Society. It was such a personal method of writing and supremely effective in capturing the reader.
Everyone in the book club seemed to thoroughly enjoy TGL&PPPS and one of the special treats was Laura our hostess, made an actual potato peel pie! And it was delicious! A book for book lovers, a book for friends and a book to inspire community and feelings of good will. If you like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford or On Folly Beach by Karen White then you’ll love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
The Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1976. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there when a thick fog descended and all boats and planes were forbidden to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to lift, warming herself by the heat of the hand-dryer in the men’s restroom, she read all the books in the Guernsey airport bookstore, including Jersey under the Jack-Boot. Thus began her fascination with the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.
Many years later, when goaded by her book club to write a novel, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey. She chose to write in the epistolary form because, “for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier.” Several years of work yielded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was greeted with avid enthusiasm, first by her family, then by her writing group, and finally by publishers around the world. Sadly, Mary Ann’s health began to decline shortly thereafter, and she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book.
Mary Ann Shaffer was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1934. Her career included libraries, bookstores, and publishing, but her life-long dream was to “write a book that someone would like enough to publish.” Though she did not live to see it, this dream has been realized in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Have you read this gem of a novel? Or tried a potato peel pie? Yummy!