Review of, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” by author Mary Ann Shaffer.
This is a book read by the Braewood Condominium book club during February 2015. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Society is not a book I would have read if it had not been a book club selection. I would have given up on it before becoming fully engaged with the story. First of all, it is unusual in that the book consists of letters being written back and forth by the people involved in the story. So there is no flow to the story and it is difficult to identify the many characters introduced through the many notes and letters. The book defies author 101 rules which expect the reader to have their interest in the story tweaked by page ten and fully engaged with the protagonist by page fifty. I wasn’t sure who the protagonist would be until around page one hundred. It was also at this point where that I finally became absorbed in the story and the people in it.
The story takes place immediately after the end of WWII, and is centered on the island of Guernsey, a channel island between England and France. Guernsey had been occupied by the Germans after the fall of France in 1940. The story revolves around the events that occurred during the German occupation.
Juliet Ashton, an author who lived in London and looking for a subject for a new book received a letter from a resident of Guernsey that she has never met. This causes Juliet to become interested in the island as a subject for a new book and the interest intensifies as Juliet learns more about the island and its people. All the people she is corresponding with on the island are members of an eccentric Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society. A society that had been quickly invented as an alibi when German Occupiers found the group’s founders breaking curfew.
Juliet Ashton decides to travel to the Guernsey to meet the people she has been corresponding with and finds them even more peculiar than their letters indicated. These included a pig farmer philosopher and a hardnosed busy body that holds things together. Juliet also met and became enthralled by a love child of a German officer and one of the members who had been deported and imprisoned by the Germans. The story mixes humor and disastrous events in a way that isn’t unseemly. The end result is that the visit to Guernsey becomes a life changing event for Juliet.
After I got through the first hundred pages, I found the story enjoyable and pleased that I had read it. However I’m downgrading it to three and a half stars because of the effort to took to get to the good part of the story.