Friday, 10 September 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I first heard about this book a few months ago when Ginny Marie posted about it. And I had to be sure not to forget the pie in the title. Well, the book sounded intriguing and I bought it soon afterwards. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I finally started it!

The blurb: It's 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can't think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey - by chance, he's acquired a book that once belonged to her - and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet's curiosity is piqued and it's not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realises that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

Most people will know that Great Britain remained free from German Occupation during the Second World War. But the Channel Islands (Guernsey being one of them) are located so close to the French mainland that they were occupied at the end of June 1940. Most of the children had been sent to Great Britain to keep them safe, but both adults and some children remained when the Germans marched in. The situation on the Channel Islands was much like the situation in other occupied countries (and it certainly reminds me of the situation in the Netherlands): no radios allowed, no press, no telephone to Britain, less and less food, fuel and medication. Added to that were the thousands of Todt slaves: Eastern European slave workers who were forced to work on very little food and medical care until they died (one of Hitler's little plans).
To escape the daily routine of horrors people turned to different things and one of those was a literary society. People who had only ever read the back of a seedpacket were now reading Charles Lamb, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare to keep them sane and keep them from thinking about the war for just a few hours every week.

The whole book is written in the form of letters and telegrams and it is both funny and sad. I laughed when Juliet's editor and friend wants to know whether 'Kit would like a set of bagpipes' and Juliet answers: 'she will, I do not!'. I cried when I read the part about Kit's mother Elizabeth being killed. The book tells you about the atrocities of war, the awful German occupiers, the horror of prison or concentration camps (Ravensbrück and Bergen Belsen are both mentioned), the Guernsey collaborators. But it also tells you about the good in people, Germans who risked their lives while stealing medication for a sick Guernsey boy, Guernsey people trying to hide a polish Todt worker and save him from death.

But most of all this book is about people. People who just want to be happy and live their lives with the ones they love, be they German, Channel Islander, Outlander (anyone from Great Britain) or wherever they're from.

My verdict: two thumbs up! And a big thank you to Ginny Marie for discovering this book for me.


  1. I just learned a little bit of history that I didn't know about.

    Also, I lived in a city named Sarnia, which is supposedly the Latinization of Guernsey.

  2. Oh, yes, I love the book. I'm even tempted to try to make potato peel pie, LOL.
    Wonderful characters, a wonderful location.
    Alberta, Canada

  3. It sounds like it would also make a wonderful movie...
    and now I have to goggle potato peel pie (I know how to make soup from them, but not pie)

  4. I just started reading this book earlier this week. My sister from Canada sent it to me because she knew I would love it -and I do.

  5. Two thumbs up! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Sounds like a very interesting book.

  6. You are very welcome! I cried, too, when I came to the part about Elizabeth! Some very sad parts, but also some very happy parts! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!