Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Summary: The setting is London (and later Guernsey island) directly after World War II. The main character is an irreverent writer, Juliet Ashton. She receives a letter from a man, Dawsey Adams, who lives on a small island called Guernsey. (Guernsey is an island in the English Channel that belongs to Britain, but is closer to France.) Guernsey was occupied by the Nazis during WWII and thus had been cut off from most of the world. Dawsey writes to Juliet because he has a book by Charles Lamb that once belonged to her and would like the address of the book store so he could purchase another book from Lamb. They begin a lively correspondence and Juliet finds a story that will save her writer's block. Dawsey, it turns out, is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and agrees to indulge Juliet in the hilarious (and at times, somber) story of its creation and continued existence. Juliet receives letters from all the members of the Society and other members of the community. She eventually visits the island and finds herself in a new life.

Thoughts: I had heard a great deal about this book and was happy to find that it lived up to all the hype. However, I think it ended rather suddenly, but I probably think that about all my favorite books...I just want them to keep going on and on! I found myself wanting to meet Juliet and every member of the Society. At the same time, I felt like they were people I knew. They are the kind and brave people in our communities that everyone loves. I enjoyed every page. I particularly enjoyed that the book was all letters. Letter writing is such a lost art and I found it to be very refreshing in this context. It also contained a great deal of interesting history. For some reason, I have always been fascinated with WWII history. This particular perspective was new and interesting. (Who knew that the Nazis occupied a British island?) I found it be very clever and containing a dry humor that had me laughing out loud. I would suggest it to anyone, especially women.

Because I skipped over the letter headings, I mistook several of the male characters as women for the first twenty or so pages. I made the following character list to prevent this from happening to anyone else:

Character List:
Juliet Ashton - Main character. Writer and avid reader. Witty. Lives in London.

Sophie Strachan - Dear friend to Juliet. Wife of Alexander and Sidney's sister. Lives in Scotland.

Sidney Stark - Juliet's publisher and good friend. Sophie's brother.

Susan Scott - Sidney's secretary

Mark Reynolds - American publisher. Juliet's would-be suitor.

Piers - Sidney's friend who was lost in Burma during the war. Lives now in Australia.

The Society's Members:
Dawsey Adams - first writes to Juliet. Loves the writings of Charles Lamb.

Amelia Maugery - The society's first meeting was held in her home.

Isola Pribby - Lovely and eccentric woman who helps tend to Kit.

Eben Ramsey - Grandfather of Eli. Gives Juliet a great deal of detail about the Occupation.

Clovis Fossey - Read poetry to Nancy Hubert and now they are married.

Elizabeth - Loved by all the Society. Mother of Kit. Sent to a German prison camp for housing a Polish slave worker.

John Booker - Valet for Lord Tobias Penn-Piers before the war. Told the Germans he was Penn-Piers to keep himself safe, as his mother was a Jew.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! Have any book recommendations for me?


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