Spoiler free | Rating: 5 out of 5 stars | Read: 29 April – 30 April, 2018
Written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is a novel detailing the quest of a writer grappling for a new story to tell. In this quest, Juliet is introduced to the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society over the English Channel. Through a series of letters, not only is she introduced to a book-loving community, but she gradually learns the shocking truth of the island. It was inhibited by the Germans during the Second World War, which has subsequently had a massive impact on the natives.
I loved the whole concept of this novel. Firstly, the historical narrative was utterly riveting. I love wartime novels, specifically the First and Second World War, but this detailed an aspect of history that I wasn’t completely familiar with. I didn’t know the Germans occupied Guernsey. Being given an insight to how the natives might have reacted to this, in addition to how the Germans may have treated them, was really interesting. I feel like both authors did a fantastic job at researching the history of the island during the Second World War; it felt informative, but wasn’t patronising. Moreover, their exploration of the natives’ psyche eventually deteriorating due to this occupation was captivating; it was a defining quality of the novel.
Secondly, I loved the book-loving side of the narrative. I appreciated how this was essentially an ode to other writers. Throughout the novel, the characters made frequent references to celebrated writers, sharing their opinions on their work and person. A lot them were writers I also like, such as Wordsworth, Austen, and the Brontës. I was able to connect to the characters on a deeper level because of this; I felt like they were a part of me. Furthermore, the notion that books kept these people going through the German Occupation was extremely endearing. It transported these people away from such a distressing situation, which is something we book lovers can all relate to no matter the circumstance.
The characters were yet another defining aspect of the novel. The host of characters kept the story riveting. Despite being introduced through letters, they were fully developed and had their own voice. The formatting of the narrative (an epistolary novel) didn’t prevent any development, both for the characters and the story. I knew them individually and I knew them as a part of a larger narrative. Personally, my favourite was Juliet. Everything boiled down to her, and I liked how strong of a character she was. She knew what she wanted, and she wasn’t scared of attaining it. Her view on marriage was interesting, especially considering the contextual history. Juliet was an utterly refreshing protagonist.
The only minor issue I had was the abrupt ending. It was a little rushed, and I would have liked for this particular plot to have been developed further. I won’t spoil, but this courtship needed to be flesh out. It would have been more convincing for the authors to have introduced this relationship a little earlier, and thus allowing it to unfold gradually. I felt like they just dropped it into the last two pages like it was nothing, leaving it to feel a little unsatisfactory. However, this didn’t prevent my enjoyment of the novel. I was routing for these characters all along. It just lacked that extra something.
Overall, I thought this was a brilliant story. The historical narrative, in addition to the overwhelming appreciation for books, made this story what it is. I hope the new film adaptation does it justice. It’s a new favourite, one I’ll probably re-read for years to come. Definitely check it out!
Have you read this? What did you think? I’d love to discuss it with you!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X
4 thoughts on “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society:”
I haven’t read this book yet but my mum loved it years ago! I only just saw the movie and I thought it was amazing I am really looking forward to reading the book now too!!
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but hopefully it’s as good as the book! 🙂
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