Sunday, 10 August 2008

Review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Juliet Ashton is a successful writer, author of the popular Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War column in the Spectator. But now it is 1946 and the war is over, and Juliet wants to put Izzy behind her and write a serious book in her own name. The problem is she has no idea what to write about. Then she receives a letter from a pig farmer on the Channel Island of Guernsey, a man called Dawsey Adams, who has acquired a second hand book by Charles Lamb that has Juliet’s name and address written inside the front cover. Dawsey is writing to Juliet because he loved the book – it helped keep his spirits up during the German Occupation – and he wonders if she knows of any other books by Charles Lamb. There are no bookshops left on the island, you see, since the Germans left. In passing, Dawsey mentions in his letter the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which came into being because of a roast pig they had to keep secret from the Germans, and Juliet is intrigued. Why, she writes back, did a roast-pig dinner have to be kept a secret? How could a pig cause them to establish a literary society? And, most pressing of all, what is a potato peel pie?

I found this book a joy to read. An old-fashioned epistolary novel, it is told entirely through the letters written between the characters, which in itself makes it light reading without being lightweight.

Read the full review on the The BookBag website.


Mary Witzl said...

Hi Paul. This looks good and I'm sure the title would have drawn me in even if I hadn't read your review.

Just wanted to say that I was at the doctor's surgery the other day without a book (big mistake) when I picked up a women's magazine and saw one of your stories in it, about the boy who 'finds' a 10-shilling note. (I felt like telling the whole waiting room that I knew you.) It was a good story, too. I liked the deft way you showed us what the mother's feelings for her boy were -- the description of her conversation about knitting and gin.

Paul said...

Thanks, Mary. Glad you liked the story!