A Novel Idea – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


Image Source: www.goodreads.com

This is a book that I had heard about maybe 6 or 12 months ago, and despite being intrigued by the title, it had made it on to my reading list and no further. When I finished working and moved to Barbados, I found that I had so much more free time to pick up a book and lose myself in its pages. Scanning my ‘to read’ list, this title popped out and I decided that it was about time to give it a go.

Having an interest in writing myself, and one day hoping to write a book, I was immediately taken by the story and subject matter; a writer, Juliet Ashton, looking for inspiration for the subject of her next book. Maybe I’d get some tips! I’d been to Guernsey as a child on a holiday with my Mum and Dad, so I was interested to read about a place that held some familiarity with me. I’d also just moved from one island (UK) to another and maybe that was another trigger for me to read this book now.

Set in 1946 post war London, Juliet begins corresponding with a man that she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey who found her name written in a book by Charles Lamb that he had acquired. As they begin to correspond, a friendship develops and soon Juliet is drawn in to the world of this man and his friends; the eccentric world of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet begins to correspond with many of the society’s charming and witty members and eventually visits the island and meet the members. Her visit and ongoing correspondence with a variety of people gives her, and the reader, greater insight in to their personalities and the effect the German occupation had on the island and its people.

Written as a series of letters, this book is incredibly easy and entertaining to read. I found it hard to put down, often having to read the reply to a letter, and then the subsequent reply to that letter before my interest was satisfied. It’s not a deep and meaningful book by any stretch of the imagination, and personally I don’t think it’s intended to be. It’s a feel good sort of book. Everybody is happy, everybody loves Juliet and stories of the war even begin to fade in to the background and the personalities of the characters take over. It isn’t an historic account of war and what happened on the island, but more reflects how that situation affected and shaped some of the people. Many of the letters were hilarious and witty, and some if them were sad, but all were well written and extremely descriptive and drew you in further.

Sadly, Mary Anne Shaffer died before her novel was published and her niece, Annie Barrows took up the task of editing and publishing the novel. A wonderful honour to her Aunt, allowing her to posthumously achieve her lifelong dream of writing her own book and having it published. I’m so pleased that she took up the challenge as I really enjoyed reading it. Why not add it to your 2017 reading list and let me know what you think of it?

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