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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society [Paperback]

Mary Ann Shaffer , Annie Barrows
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (727 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

7 Jun 2010
It's 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can't think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey - by chance, he's acquired a book that once belonged to her - and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it's not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (7 Jun 2010)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 1408810263
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408810262
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (727 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Charming ... one to lift even the most cynical of spirits' The Times 'Thronging with lovable people ... golden comedy' Guardian 'What a gorgeous book - very touching and funny' Joanna Lumley 'Delightfully spirited and quirky novel-of-letters ... You'd have to be pretty hard-hearted not to fall under its spell' Daily Mail Books of the Year

Review

`The society's members are quirky and lovable, their friendships touching and the letters so funny and moving that by the time she's considering a visit to the island we are desperate to go with her' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
446 of 467 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected delight 23 Jun 2008
By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a truly delightful book. I worried before it arrived that an amusing and whimsical title might have persuaded me to request something which would turn out not to be very good, but I was wholly wrong. I enjoyed it immensely; it is witty, erudite without being smug, interesting, laugh-out-loud funny in places and very moving in others.

The novel is set in 1946 and is in the form of letters, mainly to and from the central character, Juliet Ashton, a successful writer who becomes, wholly coincidentally, involved with a group of people on Guernsey who lived through the wartime German Occupation. The characters are thoroughly engaging and Mary Ann Shaffer (although born in the USA) manages to capture the English voice of the time beautifully: the prose is a pleasure to read.

It is very hard to summarise any of the developing stories without giving away more than I'd have wanted to know in advance, so I won't try, but the book has something to say about all kinds of things. Among them are friendship, suffering, forgiveness, goodness and wickedness, the resilience of humanity in desperate circumstances, how reading may influence us and the history of the Channel Islanders during the war. All this makes it sound a bit worthy and turgid, but it's neither - anything but, in fact. I never felt that I was being lectured, the history forms a really interesting and beautifully evoked backdrop to a thoroughly involving story and the observations on other things are either implicit in the doings of characters I really cared about or made directly with wit and flair. And there's a really tense will-they-won't-they love story which Jane Austen would have been proud of and which kept me in nail-biting suspense right up to the last page.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love it or Hate it 15 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback
I wasn't going to bother reviewing this book because there are so many reviews already. I won't re-hash the plot, but here is the lowdown if you are confused by the polarised opinions.

The characters are very well defined despite some complaints about several of them having a similar `voice' in their letters. They are well-defined to the point of caricature. Not entirely unforgivable, Dickens did a lot of this (she's no Dickens). There are probably too many characters and they need distinctive traits but if you look at the five star reviews, people who love the book compare the Islanders to the cast of the Vicar of Dibley and Last of the Summer Wine. This is cited as a compliment. If the Vicar of Dibley makes you chuckle maybe this is the book for you. A lot of the five star reviews come from this camp.

The Vicar of Dibley isn't a bad comparison when you think about it. The book has that Richard Curtis winning combination of humour, warmth and whimsy interspersed with loss and tragedy. Many people love this formula. Other people think it's an insult and a travesty to serve up what happened to the people of Guernsey in the Second World War as light entertainment, albeit with a few tears along the way. Islanders here are patronised as a bunch of eccentrics who could inhabit any small community. There is no sense of a Guernsey identity, just bits of its history served up against a picturesque backdrop. Even the surnames are wrong, like setting a book in rural Ireland where all the characters have made-up Americanised names without a Murphy, Fitzgerald or O'Reilly anywhere on the horizon.

Novels in the form of letters put some people off. This one is a red herring.
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105 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming 10 July 2008
By kehs TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Told in epistolary form this book is comparable to 84 Charing Cross Road but also has a charm all of its own. Set in 1946, we meet Juliet, a writer who is searching for inspiration to begin a new book. By a string of coincidences she learns about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and becomes intrigued by them. They all begin writing to each other and sharing snippets of their lives. Some of their wartime tales are of heroics; some of love, some are humorous and some are heartbreaking. Through everything that they endured they became united by a shared passion for books. Although, in fact, the book group was originally just a subterfuge to outwit the German soldiers, but became a reality as a love for books was discovered between them all. The surprise at the end is wonderfully warming and such a delight.

Mary Anne Shaffer has told a story of wartime horrors and hardships, yet kept the tone gentle and just bearable to read, without taking away the awfulness of the Nazi occupation in Guernsey. This book had me entranced from the very beginning and will stay with me for some time to come.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By sam155 VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This novel more than lives up to its intriguing whimsical title. It positively bursts with life and characters and stories from post war Britain and post occupation Guernsey. It tells the tale of Guernsey's occupation from the people's point of view and these people are real and rounded and have their own divisions and spats alongside their united attempts to keep their spirits uncrushed and untethered by their German occupiers.

The catalyst for this intriguing adventure is a writer, Juliet Ashton, who, under a pseudonym has been writing morale boosting books during the war and is now at a loss for a new subject. Through a mutual love of books, she gains a pen pal from Guernsey and he and his neighbours are a real can of worms that opens delightfully into a vivid cast of characters.

Juliet is charming and there is a subplot about a budding romance bubbling away in the background. What is interesting about the book is that it is told through the format of letters. The downside of this is that you sometimes mentally have to ask "now who was Mrs so and so again and why is she writing to Juliet?", since there are at least ten characters all writing to each other at various times. Don't let this put you off though, as its also a lovely way of having more than one voice or opinion to give you a rounder picture of the story and characters. Whilst I was reading it, I thought how lovely it would be as a film or TV adaptation and it reminded me of 84 Charing Cross Road, Howard's End, and the Camomile Lawn.

It is a pleasant book to read with beautiful language, often formal, but never stiff, and it isn't afraid to touch on the darker side of war despite its light humour and quirky characters. It's a heck of an achievement to tell such a gripping tale via the medium of letters alone but Shaffer pulls it off delightfully and I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderfully charming read. Its almost impossible to believe the characters are fictional.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Guernsey I see
Having just moved to Guernsey, I see in the book characters I meet in the street today. As a portrayal of life in Guernsey during and after the occupation, it has it's parallels... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Martin Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
Unexpected, original, well-written. A delightful book. I read it practically through the night: interesting, funny at times, bitter-sweet, written in a much appreciated letter... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Artemisia
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting
A pity the author never lived to see her success in writing a story about the people who lived through the German Occupation of the Channel Islands. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Maha Upasika Gotami
5.0 out of 5 stars The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
This book came highly recommended, and did not disappoint. It is written as an exchange of letters, in the time immediately after WWII - if you have read, and enjoyed "84... Read more
Published 6 days ago by C C DUNN
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start
I wad halfway through the book before I was hooked. Now I am disappointed it has finished. I want to know what happened next
Published 7 days ago by whiterose
4.0 out of 5 stars sweet
This is a sweet novel about what it was like in the Channel Islands during the war. Good holiday read.
Published 9 days ago by Annabel
5.0 out of 5 stars WW2 novel with a different point of view
I actually bought this for a friend. I read it some time ago and found it both eye-opening and gripping as well as entertaining in some places. Read more
Published 10 days ago by 4747linds
5.0 out of 5 stars thoroughly swept along by the enchanting story
Although slightly slow to get to know all the characters through their letters, I was suddenly gripped by the story and couldn't put it down. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Carolyn M
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story of life on Guernsey during the occupation
A beautiful story of life on Guernsey during the occupation written in the form of letters. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Published 19 days ago by Teresa
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read
Absolutely splendid story -
delightfully relaxing read, yet thought-provoking ref German Occupation during WWII, still - ending with a romance,
a wonderful book.
Published 19 days ago by JD
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