Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society | Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This is a delightful read, the sort of book you can give away time and time again because it has everything in it that makes a great story. Shaffer was in her sixties when she wrote it at the request of her many friends. She died soon after and her niece took up the editing and publishing of the novel. The story came to Shaffer after her visit to the isle of Guernsey in the 1970's where she learned of the German occupation of the island during World War 2. 

The story begins as a dialog between a young woman called Juliet who writes humorous column for her local Chelsea newspaper and Dawsey Adams, an islander. He came across her name in an old book of hers. In the correspondence between them he tells of the island, of it's many weird and funny characters and of the German occupation. This period was one of deprivation and hunger, fear and solidarity among the islanders.

The story emerges of the Potato Peel pie society which came about on the spur of the moment when a German officer interrogates Elizabeth, a local. She makes it up on the spot to cover the fact a group of friends had met to feast on a contraband pig. 
But in the end, the group decides to start reading and meeting together and through literature they find solace in those desperate times.

Other surviving members of the group follow Dawsey's lead and write to Juliet about their wartime experiences. She in turn ends up visiting the island. 
All in all it is a very satisfying read. Loads of interesting characters, anecdotes and the historical backdrop of the German invasion are woven into a great read.

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