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guernsey potatoTitle: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Writer: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Publisher: Bantam Dell (2009)

Pages: 305p

Bought at: Periplus FX (IDR 35k, bargain price!)

This is a story about how the World War II had changed people, even in the area that not many had thought about. Juliet Ashton is a writer living in London, and one day after the war has ended, she receives a letter from a man who lives in Guernsey Island, Dawsey Adams.

Dawsey is one of the members of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and from him Juliet find out about the time people in Guernsey had to face during the German occupation, when England seemed too busy protect the mainland and had forgotten about the little islands in the channel. From Dawsey, Juliet was introduced to people in Guernsey, who tried to fill their time during the war by reading books and discussing them in their book club.

It is so touching when I realized that books can be people’s friends in any time and situation. It can make people still feel alive, and have something to talk about. It helps them to survive during the war. And that’s what I love about this book.

But since this novel was written in letter format, I feel the characters are a bit one dimensional. We can’t tell much about them except from the description Juliet said in her letters to her publisher, Sydney, and her friend Sophie. The other members of the society just felt flat for me, including the founder Elizabeth McKenna, who had an affair with a German soldier in the island and was sent to concentration camp during the war.

Because of the letter format, it is also a bit hard to remember everybody’s names and who is who, especially because there are a few people who only wrote the letter once to Juliet, and they are just hiding behind the story afterwards, as if their part is just a later addition to the book. The only character I like is Sydney, Juliet’s publisher who is pictured as a merry/nice/but had a mysterious background. Sadly he didn’t show up much in the book, although most of Juliet’s letters were directed to him. Anyway, this is a nice book about book lovers and how books had changed and helped people during the tough times. But for me, something is missing from this book. A pure soul maybe? Or more convincing characters? Not sure. But I like the historical part, especially because there are not many books told stories about Guernsey.

Guernsey location in the channel. Pic from here.

Guernsey location in the channel. Pic from here.

Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. For most of World War II, it was occupied by German troops. Before the occupation, many Guernsey children had been evacuated to England to live with relatives or strangers during the war. Some children were never reunited with their families. The occupying German forces deported some of the residents to camps in the southwest of Germany, notably to the Lager Lindele (Lindele Camp). Guernsey was very heavily fortified during World War II out of all proportion to the island’s strategic value. German defences and alterations remain visible. (taken from here).

This book is also submitted for What’s in a Name 6 Challenge, for the category “things you find in a kitchen”.