Monday, August 18, 2008

Current reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I'm not sure what sold this one to me. The quirky title? The fact that I did once visit the Channel Islands, as they were a place I'd always wanted to see (although Sark was the biggest drawcard, I must admit)? The letters-format of it? A review that compared it favourably to Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road which is one of my enduringly favourite books?

Can't say which. But I can say I read it in a sitting on the weekend, and found it engaging and delightful. It's fiction, set in 1946, when a London-based author, Juliet Ashton, learns of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and through this of the lives of those trapped on Guernsey through the Nazi Occupation. The epistolary form lets voices speak - funny, sad, descriptive, occasionally vituperative. It's got light and shade, and some lovely quirky funny moments. From an early letter of Juliet's:

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

I chuckled. Juliet's character, in particular, comes off the page so clearly.

Mary Ann Shaffer, from what I can gather on the internet, was an American who had visited Guernsey in the 1970s and who became interested in the Occupation years there. She wrote this book under prompting from her literary club. Sadly, although she was able to know it was going to be published in thirteen countries, she died early this year, aged in her seventies, before it was published, and her niece, Annie Barrow, did the final tweaks (as Mary Ann had requested her to do).

Anyway, I'm delighted to recommend this book. Do read it.

Added later: both Candy and Isabelle have left comments saying they'll read it.  I chuckled.  You were certainly two I thought would like it!  (Pennie is another, and Erica, and...oh, quite a few people!).  My copy's already in the hands of one friend, and headed then for the hands of another.  And then I suspect I'll want it back so I can reread it.



Isabelle said...

You've sold it to me. I shall.

candyschultz said...

Oh dear I think I might have to read this one now.

Anonymous said...

oooh! Def going on my reserve list at the library - Helen Hanff is also one of my all time faves.