Have you ever read a perfect book? One that is so good you never want it to end? When you have finished it you are disappointed you are at the end? That is the way I felt when I read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” I wanted it to go on forever.
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” was recommended to me by Sarah, one of my coworkers at Fort Necessity. Sarah and I work the desk together regularly and have time to talk in between visitors. I was telling her about our trip to Great Britain next summer because she is an Anglophile. I mentioned that we were going to many of the little islands scattered around Great Britain. When she found out we were going to Guernsey, she recommended this book. The title intrigued me and I immediately checked it out of the library as an eBook.
The book is a series of letters between author Juliet Ashton and the important people in her life. At first it was hard to keep track of all the people, so I would recommend making a list as they people appear in the book. But Juliet is the central character: a woman who is witty, smart, funny, and loves people. She has just finished a book tour in post World War II England, and is looking for a subject for her next book. Gradually, through her correspondence, you learn about her background. You meet her friends. And you are introduced to the new people she meets through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Juliet’s introduction to the people on Guernsey is through a letter written to her by a man who bought a second hand book that formerly belonged to Juliet. Finding her name and address in the book, he writes to her and they begin a long-distance friendship. I grew up with pen pals – different from social media friends – and it was a joy to be reminded that people used to write long, engaging letters to one another. From this beginning, the reader learns about life on Guernsey during the war and how the people are rebuilding their lives. Through the friendships Juliet makes in the correspondence she finds the subject for her next book and a new life.
I love it when a book makes me curious about other subjects. Guernsey is an island off the coast of Normandy and is a British Crown Dependency. Although they consider Queen Elizabeth II the head of their government, they are not part of the United Kingdom. The island was invaded by Germans on June 30, 1940. 80% of the island’s children were sent to stay in rural England to protect them from the shortages during the war. For over five years, Guernsey was cut off from the world. Over 1,000 residents of the island were sent to workcamps in Germany.
After finishing the book, I looked up the author, Mary Ann Shaffer, hoping that she wrote a sequel. I found out that Mary Ann Shaffer was an editor whose biggest dream was to publish her own novel. While writing this book, she was diagnosed with cancer and asked her niece to help her finish the book. The book was published a few months after Mary Ann Shaffer died.
Reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” made me look forward to our two day in Guernsey next summer. But you don’t have to be going to Guernsey to enjoy this book. It would be a wonderful story no matter where it is set. If you read it, let me know what you think. Meanwhile, what do you consider to be a perfect book?