Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Author: Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Burrows

Number of pages: 248

Started: 4 April 2010

Finished: 10 April 2010

Opening words:

8th January, 1946
Mr. Sidney Stark, Publisher
Stephens & Stark Ltd.
21 St. James's Place
London S.W.1

Dear Sidney,
Susan Scott is a wonder. We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food. Susan managed to procure ration coupons for icing sugar and real eggs for the meringue. If all her literary luncheons are going to achieve these heights, I won't mind touring about the country. Do you suppose that a lavish bonus could spur her on to butter? Let's try it—you may deduct the money from my royalties.

Now for my grim news. You asked me how work on my new book is progressing. Sidney, it isn't.

English Foibles seemed so promising at first. After all, one should be able to write reams about the Society to Protest the Glorification of the English Bunny. I unearthed a photograph of the Vermin Exterminators' Trade Union, marching down an Oxford street with placards screaming "Down with Beatrix Potter!" But what is there to write about after a caption? Nothing, that's what.

I no longer want to write this book—my head and my heart just aren't in it. Dear as Izzy Bickerstaff is—and was—to me, I don't want to write anything else under that name. I don't want to be considered a light-hearted journalist anymore. I do acknowledge that making readers laugh—or at least chuckle—during the war was no mean feat, but I don't want to do it anymore. I can't seem to dredge up any sense of proportion or balance these days, and God knows one cannot write humor without them.
In the meantime, I am very happy Stephens & Stark is making money on Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War. It relieves my conscience over the debacle of my Anne Bront biography.

My thanks for everything and love,

P.S. I am reading the collected correspondence of Mrs. Montagu. Do you know what that dismal woman wrote to Jane Carlyle? "My dear little Jane, everybody is born with a vocation, and yours is to write charming little notes." I hope Jane spat on her.

Read more of the book here

See the publisher’s website of the book here including a video about the book.

Plot summary:

January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

What I thought:

I read this book while I was on holiday in Jersey because I like to read a book based where I am staying. I couldn’t find a book about Jersey so went for its neighbour Guernsey instead (which is probably not the done thing, as they are not the best of friends).

This book was enjoyable, but lacked depth. I never really felt that I truly cared about the characters or that they were always necessarily that believable as people. The style also changed at the end of the book and moved away from letters to a brief diary like conclusion, which perhaps was not the most appropriate way to finish it. That is perhaps overly critical though. It is a light read about a dark subject – the German Occupation of the Channel Islands - and it is an enjoyable read and there is always something intriguing about reading other people’s correspondence, or perhaps that is just me! It was also a book that touched on a number of issues that I learned about while I was in Jersey – the way people responded to the Occupation, how they were left to fend for themselves by the British government, how desperately they needed Red Cross food, but weren’t allowed to have it and so on. These things meant more to me when I read them in the book because I had found out about them during my trip to Jersey already.

It was a pleasant read, and good for a holiday or as a light take on life, but not one of the better books that I have read.

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