The Guernsey Literary and potato peel pie society

The book takes the unusual format of solely letters between characters. Although set in more recent times with Juliet , the main character, visiting the island and settling there, the content of the book is concerned with the wartime occupation of Guernsey by the Germans. The title group is named by a character who strictly doesn’t appear in the book. This is Elizabeth who in meeting in  an illicit group which is discovered has the idea of claiming it is a literary society. Food is desperately short hence the potato peel  pie part of the title. Although Elizabeth disappears into a concentration camp she is remembered with deep affection by the islanders who discover an unexpected interest in literature. Much of the detail is factual such as the excruciating dilemma of parents who have to decide whether to send their children to the mainland so they are safe from war but out of touch completely. In the course of exploring the island and societies history Juliet meets, falls for and marries one of its members.

Some members of Hopwas Book Club thought the epistolary form was a barrier with one remarking that until she realised it didn’t matter too much who the supposed writer and recipient were she couldn’t read it easily.
Several members thought it was rather too sweet and that the happy ending was rather too neat. The question was raised about Elizabeth’s child fathered by a German officer. Although raised by islanders as one of the community did the father’s family even realise the child existed.  It may be significant that the officer concerned was recognised as a “good” German and his name, Christian, might hark back to a time when Christian faith was more common.

In general the book was well received by members with one remarking it fell into the “can’t put it down “ category.

It is very interesting that the principal author, Mary Ann Schaefer was goaded into writing this book, her only one, late in life by members of a book club of which she was a member. She died before work was completed and the final editing was done by her niece.


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