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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel Hardcover – July 29, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (July 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1741751683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385340991
  • ASIN: 0385340990
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,810 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers. (Aug.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

“Traditional without seeming stale, and romantic without being naïve” (San Francisco Chronicle), this epistolary novel, based on Mary Ann Shaffer’s painstaking, lifelong research, is a homage to booklovers and a nostalgic portrayal of an era. As her quirky, loveable characters cite the works of Shakespeare, Austen, and the Brontës, Shaffer subtly weaves those writers’ themes into her own narrative. However, it is the tragic stories of life under Nazi occupation that animate the novel and give it its urgency; furthermore, the novel explores the darker side of human nature without becoming maudlin. The Rocky Mountain News criticized the novel’s lighthearted tone and characterizations, but most critics agreed that, with its humor and optimism, Guernsey “affirms the power of books to nourish people during hard times” (Washington Post).
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Customer Reviews

The story is told through letters.
RICHARD
It's one of those books you start reading very slowly towards the end, you don't want it to stop.
tme
Wonderful characters, fascinating story, and very well written.
Esther J. Klay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1,486 of 1,525 people found the following review helpful By Tamela Mccann TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What a wonderful book! Having just finished this one, I am still smiling and thinking of the characters. Had I the time and money, I'd be booking a trip for Guernsey right this minute. As it is, I feel as though I've already visited and been made to feel at home.

Set in both London and Guernsey Island, this novel follows author Juliet as she becomes friends with the inhabitants of the island shortly after the end of World War 2. Told in epistolary style, Juliet learns of the occupied island and its deprivations, as well as the resounding spirit of the people who live there. As she writes, she becomes more and more intrigued with the stories of the people who survived the hard times, and she decides to create a book based on their experiences. In order to gather more information, Juliet moves temporarily to the island and soon finds herself immsersed in the culture and relationships.

This is absolutely one of the most delightful books I've read all year. The characters are real, the relationships are unique, and Juliet is hysterically funny, as well as warm hearted and genuine. I did have a bit of trouble keeping all the characters straight in the beginning, but once I caught on, I was enthralled. The pages just fly by and while you will learn a little of what happened to Guernsey during World War 2, you will learn much more about love and friendship. Highly recommended!
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420 of 430 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on July 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't that eager to read this lovely book. The title sounded silly and I've read a few other books that were told entirely in the form of notes or letters like this one and I wasn't too impressed. And an aunt and her niece authoring a book together? I couldn't imagine it. Yet, miraculously, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY manages to offer wonderful well rounded characters, a genuine sense of historic time and geographic place, some real inspiring stories of courage under hardship during World War II and a sweet if rather predictable love story.

The book takes place in England during the mid 1940's when the country was recovering from the effects of the long war years. The central character of the novel is Juliet, a thirty something single Londoner who has had some success writing a humorous newspaper column and is now looking for a book subject. Through chance and a mutual love of the power of literature Juliet begins corresponding with a group of diverse people on the British island of Guernsey who used books and the fellowship they found discussing them to help them get through the hideous occupation of their island by the Germans. The authors do a wonderful job giving unique voice and style to each of the letter writers (maybe having two authors really helped in this case) long before Juliet meets her new friends face to face. In the second half of the book, also written in letter form, Juliet is on Guernsey herself and this part of the book is not quite as strong as the beginning as the plot settles in to more of a traditional love story form and the literature themes are somewhat lessened. Still,through its final page, this is an original and entertaining book.
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281 of 294 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on July 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
During World War II, the Germans occupied Guernsey in the Channel Islands, so close to France that, apparently, you could see cars on the highway on a clear day. The Germans built heavy fortifications against the islanders, built a concentration camp on Guernsey, and Guernsey's children were evacuated to England.

Juliet Ashton is an author looking for her next great idea, when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, who lives on Guernsey, about Charles Lamb, to whose works we was introduced through the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The Society came to be in an unusual fashion: one evening after curfew, on their way home, some of its members were stopped by German soldiers, and Elizabeth McKenna had to make something up on the spot. Over time, the members got together whenever they could to talk about what they'd read. That's how Isola, for example, became addicted to Wuthering Heights.

Juliet lives in a London that was decimated by war; her apartment by the Thames has been lost, as well as all of her books (as you can imagine, horrifying). But her career as a writer is going well, and she has a potential love interest: the handsome and rich Mark. But Juliet's life changes as she receives more and more letters from the Guernsey Islanders, and she decides that she just might have to pay them a visit

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an utterly charming novel, written in an epistolary fashion, between not only Julia and her new friends, but her best friend from childhood and her brother (who also happens to be Juliet's publisher). It's a sweet, funny novel, and it reminds me a lot of
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575 of 622 people found the following review helpful By J. Fuchs VINE VOICE on August 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There is so much to like about this book that I almost feel guilty for only giving it three stars. The book consists of a series of letters written during the post-World War II years from and to Juliet, a London-based writer, Juliet's publisher, Sidney, Juliet's friends, Juliet's suitor, and a group of residents of Guernsey (in the Channel Islands) who formed a book club of sorts during the German occupation of the island. In the course of their correspondence, Juliet develops a friendship with the members of the unfortunately named Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while discovering what their lives were like during the German occupation. The writing is beautiful and by the end of the book you feel like you know all of the characters extremely well -- especially the simple country folk of Guernsey who discover the magic of books while trying to survive the depredations of wartime. So what's the problem?

The authors obviously have a knowledge and love of great literature, but their loving description of so many classic and wonderful books and authors can't help but remind the reader of the elements that are missing here. The characters in the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are so unfailingly good and lovable that they ultimately don't seem real. There's a token curmudgeon and, of course, there are the Nazis, but it's all a bit WWII lite. I kept waiting for some depth or nuance, some real sense of wonder or horror, or just a new perspective, but nothing really develops. It's a sweet little story and I liked the book, but I doubt it will stay with me very long. It's enjoyable, well-intentioned and commendable, but ultimately, like the potato peel pie of the title, made with love but not truly satisfying.
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