The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer


Twelve members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies from eight members who sent their “thoughts” on the book. Pam opened the discussion by asking Sally what she thought of the book and it became very apparent that this was a real hit with everyone especially those present in fact not so much a “Potato Peel Pie” more a book full of unfolding deliciousness with characters being defined by their letter writing which slowly developed and unfurled their individual characteristics through the style and words they used. One member said “I found the characters enchanting and realistic. It was really easy for me to picture them.” It was noted by several members that the author did not actually need to or give any actual descriptions of them in the book – so all agreed very cleverly and skilfully written.

A few members mentioned that initially the letter format was annoying with several of them having to leave or put the book down for a while before persevering and attempting to continue reading. However they were pleased they did as once past this, they were hooked.  Others said once they got into the book they actually forgot the letter format and it became just like reading normal chapters especially in Part Two of the book. There were two members who did not really enjoy the book & one who just could not get in to it.

Having so many contrasting characters really helped to portray and give an insight into life and the complexities of the time that the Channel Islands were enduring the Occupation, showing a determination to survive using their newly formed and sometimes unlikely friendships, as well as using their books as a form of distraction and escapism from what everyone agreed must have been such a harrowing time. It was thought, though, that the writing of these horrific and harsh war experiences sections did fit into the whole plot to complete the picture despite the trauma of reading them. The author skilfully tackled these heavy topics such as the concentration camp survivors, falling in love with the enemy and the inhumane treatment of the Todt prisoners.

On a lighter note, members did find themselves uplifted at times; the book was littered with humour throughout. They loved Isola Pribby and her incompetent “detecting” – Miss Marples she definitely wasn’t!! – but so likeable in everything she tried out: practising phrenology caused many to giggle, her “under the bed detecting” and completely missing all the clues about Dawsey’s feelings for Juliet,  as one member put it “Classic!”.  Another moment enjoyed by everyone was the roasted piglet episode too.  The rustic charm of the characters was liked and there was a general amazement between many members as to how they gelled together so well throughout the book.

The bravery of Elizabeth was much admired by everyone with several feeling and hoping that they too would have dealt with situations in a similar way perhaps.  Everyone agreed that everything in this book seemed plausible because the mixture of events tied in with the author’s very good research of the time and just worked so well, in what all agreed was beautifully and cleverly written. To quote one member’s words: “What a clever, entertaining and informative mix of history, romance, devotion and relationships all cooked up under a pie crust!!”

Members were then asked by Pam which character in the book they would have liked to portray and why – with very amusing results! There was much laughter with Brenda L’s wish to be Juliet and why!!!!  We finished with Juliet gaining four members –  Isola (Miss Marple) gaining two members wishing to portray her – Elizabeth (the brave heroine) gaining another two members and finally Amelia (who held everything and everyone together & of roasted piglet fame too!) who gained four members.  A suggested mantra for our Book Club (Thank you Brenda R x) should be as the very last page of the Afterword ….

“We are transformed – magically – into the Literary Society” .. Annie Barrows

So in conclusion what would we do with our copy – well………….. for the first time in memory everyone wanted to keep their copies and would even buy another to give to a friend!!! (Sally has already sent one to Australia!!)

Guess what ??  …………  three of the husbands of our Members picked up and read the book & all thoroughly enjoyed it too with one rushing to finish it 15 minutes before the meeting!!