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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel [Hardcover]

Annie Barrows , Mary Ann Shaffer
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2008

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” 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.

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From Publishers Weekly

The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“I can’t remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one, a world so vivid that I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren’t my actual friends and neighbors. Treat yourself to this book please—I can’t recommend it highly enough.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

“Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have written a wondrous, delightful, poignant book— part Jane Austen, part history lesson.  The letters in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society aren't addressed to you, but they are meant for you.  It's a book everyone should read.  An absolute treasure.”—Sarah Addison Allen, author of Garden Spells

"A jewel...Poignant and keenly observed...A small masterpiece about love, war and the immeasurable sustenance to be found in good books and good friends."—People

"It's tempting to throw around terms like 'gem' when reading a book like this. But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is not precious...This is a book for firesides or long train rides. It's a charming and timeless as the novels for which its characters profess their love."—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

“A book-lover's delight, an implicit and sometimes explicit paean to all things literary.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“I’ve never wanted to join a [book] club as desperately as I did while reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society…. [The novel] is a labor of love, and it shows on almost every page.”–Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor

"As the letters unfold, Juliet—and we readers—learn the little-known history of German occupation of Guernsey. We come to know the brave and endearing people who survived the hardships—and a few who did not....In addition to a fine story, this delightful book offers affirming messages about some of the most enduring forces in life—the power of the written word, the strength of the human spirit and the value of relationships, even unexpected ones."—Winston Salem Journal

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a sweet, sentimental paean to books and those who love them.... It affirms the power of books to nourish people enduring hard times."—Washington Post Book World

“Here's who will love this book: anyone who nods in profound agreement with the statement, "Reading keeps you from going gaga." The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delight. Tart, insightful and fun.”—Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow, A Thread of Grace and Dreamers of the Day

"[A] marvelous debut.... Reminiscent of Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road , this is a warm, funny, tender, and thoroughly entertaining celebration of the power of the written word."—Library Journal

“Charming…. [Heroine] Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as readers will.”—Publishers Weekly

"[ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is] a nifty little cloth whose warp is bibliophilia and whose weft is Anglophilia.... I could not put the book down. I have recommended it to all my friends."—Erica Marcus, Newsday

" A poignant, funny novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.... This one is a treat."—Boston Globe

“A sure winner…. Elizabeth and Juliet are appealingly reminiscent of game but gutsy ’40s movie heroines.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Fast, fresh.... A perfect novel for adaptation by Masterpiece Theater."—Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Warm, life-affirming prose … an ideal choice for book groups, and also for individual readers.”—St. Petersburg Times

"Delightful ... One of those joyful books that celebrates how reading brings people together."—New Orleans Times-Picayune

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars letters Aug. 18 2008
This book transports you to another era with its colorful descriptions of the Second World War, this delightful island & its people. It makes you want to read more books of this type & also to read more books on Guernsey Island. The characters are marvelous & I wish the book was longer so I could spend more time with them.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A TALE FFILLED WITH COURAGE AND HUMOR Aug. 11 2008
By Gail Cooke TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Audio books are getting better and better. For this listener that is largely due to increasing narrations by ensemble casts, giving a breadth and richness to readings that cannot be achieved by even the most accomplished single voices. Such is certainly true of this warm, humorous story that is related in a series of letters.

It is the winter of 1946 in London when our story opens. Author Juliet Ashton is pondering, no searching for ideas for her next book. She's surprised to receive a letter from the island of Guernsey, which was once under German occupation. The epistle is from a man she does not know, Dawsey Adams, who now has a book by Charles Lamb that once belonged to Juliet. Dawsey wants to know where he might find more books by Lamb.

Juliet's curiosity is aroused by this man who shares her affinity for Lamb, and in future correspondence he tells her that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a group formed for mutual protection during the German occupation.

Eventually, Juliet receives letters from other members of the Society, a disparate yet fascinating group, each with a story to tell. In due time she decides she must meet her new friends.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a wonderful tale, peopled with unforgettable characters and filled with courage, love, humor, all of which reminds us of the invincibility of the human spirit.

- Gail Cooke
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of 2008! Dec 8 2008
Oh I just loved this book! I was constantly poised between racing to see what happens next and just savouring each page slowly like a Belgian chocolate.
The entire book consists of letters between a journalist and the inhabitants of Guernsey during and after WW2.
It is an extraordinary book in that it takes you right in to the era of German occupation of the Channel Islands and how the residents coped. I learned historical details whilst being totally submerged in the characters who ring so true. I particularly loved the character of the little girl.
Highly recommended.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will appeal to anyone who loves to read about courage, integrity, kindness, love, literature, and happiness. Written as a series of letters among the characters, the book will also charm those who enjoy getting to know people through what they reveal in writing.

It would be easy to spoil this gem so I'll reveal as little as possible. In the first letter dated 8th January 1946, author Juliet Ashton writes to her publisher, Sidney Stark, about the results of her book tour for Izzy Bickerstaff goes to War and her new book, English Foibles. It turns out she's tired of being a light-hearted journalist. From there, we trail Juliet as she eventually finds her subject through an unexpected letter from a Guernsey farmer, Dawsey Adams, who owns an old book of hers, Selected Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb, which had her name and former address written inside the front cover. Like Alice when she went down the rabbit hole, that letter opens up a whole new world . . . and set of experiences . . . relating to the English Channel island of Guernsey which was occupied by German forces during World War II.

Unlike literary letters (say of Virginia Woolf), these letters are more often chatty and informative than witty. But each letter opens the door into the hearts and minds of the characters in deeper ways than can occur in the normal narrative of a novel. You will feel like you are solving a mystery at times. You'll even get to know characters quite well that don't write any letters.

I found myself torn between wanting to race to the end . . . and wanting to savor the pleasure of each letter. The latter instinct prevailed.

The letters are short, and you could read most of them in two minutes or less. Even if you are frequently interrupted, you will get right back into the story.

There's a clear possibility of a sequel here. I look forward to it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Slice of Life Jan. 11 2009
By Dave and Joe TOP 500 REVIEWER
Every review I've read about this talks about the book being a delightful read or a charming way to spend some time. While it is true there are delightful passages and charming characters, the book is much more than you might imagine. There is real human drama here, there are people you grow to love and to mourn. This is not all froth, the book packs an emotional punch. One of the best books I've read in a while.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I can't stop myself from passing this book along June 18 2016
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When you're in the mood for something light and witty to give you warm feelings and a little spring in your step, this is the perfect book. Or should I say collection of letters, for that is exactly what this is. Simply by opening the cover, the reader is immediately deposited into the colourful world of Juliet Ashton and the recipients of her countless letters. I loved it so much I had to read it twice through to make sure I gleaned every detail possible from its pages. I think every person should be lucky enough to have this treat fall into their hands!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
My all time favourite book
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story, beautifully written with engaging characters
A great story, beautifully written with engaging characters. The author thoroughly researched the topic, such that the story provides historical fact interspersed with a fictional... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Carol T. Culhane
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An inside look at what it was like living under Nazi occupation.
Published 6 months ago by kb0
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I loved how it was written in letter/telegram prose to and from the various characters. Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVED IT.
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Wonderful novel. Highly recommended!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars The dialogue was witty and delicious!
One of my all-time favourite books. The dialogue was witty and delicious, the characters were loveable and the intertwining stories were well developed and moving. Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars This should be a movie
I am a female who dislikes "chick flicks" but this was a very entertaining book and would make a great (possibly academy award winning/nominated) movie
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Read
Intelligently sewn together this book of letters gives us a glimpse into a piece of history I didn't know existed. Read more
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