Book review: The Guernsey, Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I knew someone from Guernsey, once. He had an air of quiet authority about him which I found difficult to understand for I too came from an island, but there was no quiet air of authority about me – I suffered from a manic inferiority complex from the sheltered life I led on the island – a life that was so different to the slick city where I first started my career.

Thus it was with some interest that I started reading this book. I expected it to be one of those ‘clever’, ‘feeding the elite’ type of literary efforts that had no appeal to ordinary folk like me, but which we nevertheless felt bound to read it so that we did not lose face and reveal our ignorance.

I could not have been further from the truth. This book is positively charming. The characters are ‘family’, friends who were so much part of my life that I felt quite piqued when the book ended and everything stopped. While I got a little muddled between the characters as the letters passed from one to another in the early stages, it did not seem to matter – it was as though I was part of this every increasing family of fascinating people who accepted me, the reader, as one of them with my own human frailties. I was thoroughly drawn into this society as these fine people struggled with their feelings and dilemmas and slowly but surely revealed the history of Guernsey during the Occupation.

Now that I think about it, the plot was very well designed and much excitement and intrigue was created as mysteries were gently dropped into the network of events. However, not once did I feel that it was contrived. It all developed with such natural fluency that I wanted to know what happened, not because of any engineered curiosity but because I cared, really cared and wanted the people to resolve their issues.

I was Juliet, the author who struggled with the subject for her next book and eventually discovered not only the answer to this dilemma but found a new life for herself – a home – in this charming island. The quirky idiosyncrasies of the characters made me smile with recognition. There was always someone out there that immediately came to mind when the members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society interacted and revealed their inner most thoughts and feelings.

I thoroughly recommend this book, not because it is an ‘international bestseller’ and that ‘everyone is reading it’ but because it was wonderful to curl up with after a hard day’s work, it meant something to me and took me into an enchanting world that I am loathe to leave.



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