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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Paperback – 7 Jun 2010


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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: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (875 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,398 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

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

456 of 477 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 23 Jun. 2008
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sam155 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 July 2008
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sally Zigmond VINE VOICE on 14 July 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of those novels that comes along every so often that everyone will want to read, young, old, male, female. A witty and delightful page-turner, it tells the story in letter form of Juliet, a young self-deprecating author and is set just after the end of the second world war. Keen to begin a new and challenging project she finds out by chance about the society of the title which formed during the German occupation of Guernsey. Intrigued by its bizarre name (which is explained), she soon begins exchanging letters with its members and finds out about their personalities as well as the hardship they all suffered.

That is the basic gist but, as in all great stories, there is much more to it than that. One of the society members, Elizabeth, was arrested for harbouring a slave worker and sent to a concentration camp. She has not returned and she is very much missed. Elizabeth's story is harrowing in the extreme and is largely what prevents the novel from becoming too twee and saccharine.

I knew Guernsey was occupied during the war but I never realised (shame on me) until I read this novel just how awful life was under occupation. The fortitude and resourcefulness of the island's inhabitants, who are by no means saints and the way they welcome Juliet in their midst is heart-warming and if the conclusion, the love-story and a sub-plot about some letters by Oscar Wilde, are all too good to be true, I am prepared to waive any criticism because of the underlying darkness that I can't ever forget. It would make a great film but before that I guarantee the novel will be a huge best-seller.
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