Review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Several years ago I expressed interest to Random House Publishing in NYC to read and recommend to my book club advanced copies of novels. I hadn’t received one for over a year, and then, out of the blue, they sent me a book I’ve been aching to read for pleasure and for my continuing work in studying book clubs. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.www.randomhouse.com

I usually get quite pissed off at the marketing copy that is obviously directed at ill-conceived notions of a women’s book club, but the letter sent with this book said “I hope that you and your book club enjoy discussing the complex characters that make up this charming novel.” Charming, indeed. But not in a way that is sappy or sloppy.

The book is set in post WWII London and the Channel Islands, specifically on Guernsey. The authors, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows– an aunt and niece team, tell the story of an eclectic group of readers who form a reading group to protect themselves from their German occupiers. Their story is told through letters between the various group members and an author who wants to write a book to tell their story. You might not like the style, but it usually works in teasing out historical information that you’ve never known before (have you ever heard about Todt workers? Me, either. They were slave labour used to work on engineering projects in occupied territories. Pretty grim picture.). You’ll get a sense, too, of the publishing industry at that time. Mostly, however, you’ll learn to really enjoy the various characters and all of their idiosyncrasies.

I’ve already recommended The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to my reading mates, and I recommend this book to you. It’s a must on your summer reading list.

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