Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyBook Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

April’s pick for my book club, so I was clearly impatient. I originally read the book in 2009 and was eager to reread it and see if I still liked it as much as I had back then.

I may have even loved it more, as this time around I was able to pace myself a bit better and wasn’t wondering how certain events would resolve.

What do I love?
  • It’s an epistolary book. I have such a soft spot for this form of fiction that I’m predisposed to like any book that does it well.
  • It’s historical, set just after World War II, one of my favorite time periods about which to read.
  • The main character is appealing. She’s fun and witty and charming and yet still completely relatable. I absolutely feel like if she were real and we were to meet, we’d be friends.
  • Books play a key role in the story. Of course I love that.
  • There’s emotional depth, but there is also lots of warmth. In other words, it’s not bleak and unrelentingly grim, despite some heart-wrenching events. I don’t like bleak. Go ahead and bring me to tears in your book, but give me some hope and joy. Or at least the hope for eventual joy.
What do I not love?
  • The title makes it harder to recommend. I feel like I end up saying, no, really, I know the title is odd. Roll with it; it’ll all become clear. Once people are reading it I think the title is great because it is so memorable (even though invariably I want to leave out the word “peel” from the title. Plus I can never seem to spell “Guernsey” correctly on the first try.) But getting more relucatant readers to get past the unusual title sometimes takes some work.
  • That there won’t be more by the authors. Annie Barrows has several books in print, but her aunt died before this one was even published, so there won’t be another one with Shaffer’s voice and input, which makes me very sad.

I often am nervous about recommending books too strongly, because I’m afraid that unrealistic expectations may then lead to people not enjoying the book as much as they would if they hadn’t gone in anticipating the BEST BOOK EVER! So at times I try to hedge my bets – recommending a book just enough to get someone to read it, but not gushing over it as much as I really want to lest they wind up disappointed because of my hype.

This is precisely one of those sorts of books. I want to gush. I want to push it on everyone, but I know that it’s not right for everyone, and I know that it might not live up to expectations if I rave too much. So I won’t exclaim about how highly I recommend it even though I want to. I’ll just say, give it a try.

Although a word of advice? Don’t pick it up too close to bedtime. You might regret that the next day. 🙂

Publisher’s Description:
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Book Details

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyBook Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 5 Stars

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  1. I read this book when it came out and FELL.IN.LOVE. It had been years since I had fallen that quickly for a book, or read one so fast, or recommend so highly to friends and family. My copy quickly made the rounds through my mom, my sisters, and then my friends – and everyone loved it. I agree with what you don’t love – point #2. 🙁

    • Yes. It has me wishing she’d started writing a lot earlier. I’m sure she had additional great stories to share.

  2. I, too, loved this book! And, I’m also with you on your love of anything written in an epistolary format, when done well. It feels so like eavesdropping on a character’s most private thoughts and feelings. It draws me in thoroughly.

  3. I wasn’t quite sure about this one, until you said those magic words: “Don’t pick it up too close to bedtime.” It’s going on the list now! 🙂

  4. I have wondered about this book, seeing how popular it is on goodreads. I agree…the title has made me wonder, but you’ve convinced me to go for it! Thanks, Sheila!

    • Try it! I think it’d be another good one to read as a break from school reading and assignments. 🙂

  5. I loved this book too! We read it for book club as well –everyone loved it and I’m forever hearing it being suggested to others.

    • I’m really looking forward to the book club discussion about this one, and learning what everyone else thought of it. Nice to hear that it was a success with yours. 🙂

  6. I love it when people I admire gush about a book. It makes me want to read it when it means so much to someone. I gush about books all the time, but I do understand that my tastes aren’t for everyone. Might need to check this one out. 🙂

    • If you can abandon a book if it’s not working for you, then I’d really encourage you to give it a try. If you have to finish every book you start, then I’m always more hesitant to push someone to try it. Fiction is a lot harder for me to recommend, because it is so much more taste-specific I think.

  7. I’m so glad you said that about the title – that is the exact reason why I have NOT yet read this book. I’ve heard some good things about it, your review here being the most favorable, but I’m so thrown by the title I keep thinking people must be wrong. Okay okay … I’ll put it on my list! 🙂

    • If the title is the only thing that’s keeping you from trying it, don’t let it stop you! The title is explained pretty quickly too, so you’re not left for most of the book wondering what on earth is the point of the odd name.


  1. […] Picked this one out from the library because of my complete love for Annie Barrows’ co-authored book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which I reviewed last month). […]

  2. […] review of this book and our evening over on A Spirited Mind. Sheila also has a great review on The Desperate Reader. They both described the book so well I’m sure they can convince you to read this book if you […]

  3. […] Guernesey, in honor of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society […]

  4. […] was somewhat nervous starting Barrows’ new book. I loved her book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society so much, it was all I could do not to get my hopes up so high that nothing could meet […]

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