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Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Book Review

Over the past couple of years, I have read my fair share of well-written selections that retold the dire circumstances during the Second World War. The common themes for each plot are a) a nation struggling to survive and resist oppression during German occupation or b) finding friendship in the time of great uncertainty. If that sounds familiar, I have described various New York Times bestselling titles including (but not limited to) Salt to the Sea, Code Name Verity, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and even The Diary of a Young Girl.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Book, Mary Ann Shaffer
Image: IWA Prague
While each title merits positive reception, the depiction of the aftermath is sidelined. Enter: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Mary Ann Shaffer and posthumously edited and published by Annie Barrows. Most of its criticisms are unfairly directed to the setting and the plot device used. However, it suited the epistolary style that is character-driven with recollections as a foundation for character motivation, relationships, and reactions.

The story follows Juliet Ashton, a writer made famous for comedic columns written under the pseudonym Izzy Bickerstaff which was retired in pursuit of writing an article for The Times Literary Supplement. Her decision to append the article into a book came with her correspondence to Dawsey Adams that beguiled her interest in exploring the Guernsey island (the only British owned settlement occupied by the Germans during WWII) and the peculiarly named book club – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The book is a refreshing read for various reasons. Aside from the impeccable research that went through in its editorial process*, the book is narratively easy to follow. The directness of the author resulted in a page-turner with characters that are carefully introduced and developed. For a novel that has classical roots by intermittent character encounters akin to A Separate Peace and Stranger in a Strange Land, it is easy to root and empathize with the characters. That said, the story lacks diversity and representation for minorities.

For whatever it lacks, the characterization of the protagonist made it socially relevant. Juliet is a symbol of modern womanhood. Her disposition flourished by not being tied down and dragged by the influence of toxic masculinity at her time. Her willpower to finish what she set her mind into conveyed the message of achieving possibilities and opportunities for everyone. Moreover, her character served as the lens to the socioeconomic disparity depicted through her romance with the affluent Markham Reynolds and blossoming kinship to the less-fortunate Dawsey Adams and the inhabitants of the island of Guernsey.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Book, Mary Ann Shaffer
Image: Bookish Sheep
As I continue reading, I have not realized how engrossed I am with the life over Guernsey, I kept on having this image of a coastal island visited by cool morning breezes and neighbors enlivened by joyous moments of camaraderie and work. That said, nostalgia falters behind the fulfillment of reading a good book that expresses positivity and celebrates life; a rare feat accomplished by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.


Written by Joshua Rodriguez, IFY Books

Greetings fellow book and pop-culture enthusiast! I am your average young adult that loves to read science fiction (SF), general fiction and occasionally, young adult novels and children’s literature. At my spare time you may find me watching Star Trek and Doctor Who or updating my library with the latest shows from streaming giants such as Netflix and Hulu. I devote most of my time in learning, critiquing, and researching. If you want to know more, go check out my reviews!

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