Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is about a writer and her growing relationship with the inhabitants of the island of Guernsey after the German occupation, as she searches for subject matter for her next book. The story is told through a series of letters to and from her editor, the members of the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and some assorted friends and relations.

When I realized the entire book was letters, I worried about the way the story would unfold. I thought this method of story telling might make for choppy reading, missing details, or information being added unnaturally to the letters, since there is no other narrative in this book. But the book is a marvel. It's so well crafted and the story progresses easily. The characters' voices are strong and the subject matter is fascinating. I've read The Diary of Anne Frank, and Night, but I'd never given much thought to the challenges facing non-soldiers outside of concentration camps in German-occupied areas of Europe during WWII.

While the subject matter is certainly heavy, the book doesn't read that way.
This book was an absolute delight to read. I finished it a few days ago and am so sad it's over.

Sadly, this was Mary Ann Shaffer's first and only book. She became ill, and was unable to complete the editing process. Her niece, Annie Barrows, stepped in to complete the book. Ms. Shaffer passed away in 2008, just before The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was published.

4 comments:

Neil said...

Wow, the author's story is as heavy as the premise of the book. For a funny, light use of letter writing as a novel, check out "Who Moved My Blackberry?" which is a British import. It's written entirely from one person's emails, leaving us to imagine what the other emails are saying.

TMC said...

I read this one! I liked it. I enjoy epistolary novels and thought it was well done. Heavy subject but not an overall heavy tone. Quirky characters are always a draw for me.

Vanessa said...

I'm taking this as a sign. This is the 6th time this week I have been encouraged to read this book, including having someone GIVE it to me. Ok, ok, I'm taking the hint and heading for the couch!

C.J.Duffy said...

I find this really interesting as I have been using 'sent letters' and diary pieces by way to add 'flavour' and a historical perspective to my books. They are a great device but you have to be really brave to write a whole book of letters to tell the narrative.