The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The book begins in January of 1946 and is composed of letters between a welcoming cast of characters that intersect in the physical world.

Juliet Ashton is an author living in London after World War II. She’s finished a series of articles about the war and is ready to move on to a more engaging top for her writings.

Juliet receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams who is living on the British Island of Guernsey, located in the English Channel. Dawsey has discovered an old copy of a book previously owned by Juliet, written by Charles Lamb. He’s seeking a favor from Juliet and asks her to give him information on a book store in London where he might find other writings by the same author.

In his letters, Dawsey mentions his inclusion in a literary society on the island that piques Juliet’s interest. Several letters between the pair begin the start of a wonderful friendship and the idea for a new book.

Juliet begins to receive letters from other members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She is drawn to the people of the island and thus begins the real adventure of the story. She finds a welcoming party of friends that are brought to life from their letters.

We follow this crew through most of 1946 on the island. There’s love and family, albeit unconventional family, and a sense of community.

The ending was an absolute delight! I won’t spoil anything here, but be prepared to gush with glee when you get to the last chapter.

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

My favorite part, other than the ending, was the references to other literary works. This is, after all, a book about a literary society. It’s fair to expect some books references.

Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Geoffrey Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Seneca, among others, are featured as favorites of the literary society members. Quite a few of the authors and books I’m personally familiar with, and I think that was intentional from the authors so that readers would feel an immediate and strong connection to the characters discussing these works.

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive- all with no end in sight, and for no other reason that sheer enjoyment.”

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

If I had to critique the book at all, I wish there were fewer characters. I really wanted my favorites (Juliet and Dawsey) to shine and carry the conversation, but they ended up in the same location for most of the story and were surely communicating mostly in person. Instead, their interactions had to be narrated as Juliet wrote to her other friends about what happened on Guernsey. I understand the necessity of the full cast but wish it could have been done with less.

It was nice to read a book written by two authors. Both Barrows and Shaffer did an excellent job. This book is highly recommended to just about everyone, including those who don’t normally read historical fiction. I think there’s enough of a unique story here that you don’t need a strong historical interest to really enjoy the love, friendship, and books.

I’m excited to check out the movie adaption on Netflix starring Lily James and Michiel Huisman. It should be a nice way to fulfill the book experience!

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