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Mystery of the Month for 1st April 2012 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer


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Initial post: Mar 18, 2012 10:56:54 PM PDT
Barbara Lane says:
Barbs Books & Chat

Proudly presents this months selection. Group discussion starting from 1st April 2012

The Co Hosts for this month are Anastasia & Barbara Lane

Anyone is welcome to join in. So rush out to the library and borrow it, or buy it from Amazon, or down load the audio version from Audible.

Our last Group book Discussion was very successful and we had a lot of fun. So come and join in!!!!!

Authors are welcome to join in the condition they do not talk at all about their own book.

We are here to talk about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer ONLY.

No promotion of another thead or blogg is welcome. We are a branch of Barb's Books & Chat. We are here to discuss the agreed book, any other chat should move to Barb's Books & Chat (as long as it follows the guidelines)

Barb Down Under

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 7:02:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 21, 2012 7:44:55 PM PDT
I am looking forward to discussing this book but I would like to suggest we delay the start until April 2nd. That will give those a beat behind who wish to discuss the book one more day to finish and, really, can you imagine this group starting a sane and sober, not to say literary, discussion on All Fool's Day. That tempts fate.

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 11:34:47 AM PDT
Amanda Peck says:
It's been a long time since I've read the Guernsey Literary...., but seems like the basic narrator would have approved of April Fools Day. Especially in just Post-WWII London--when London at least was almost drearier than it had been during the war.

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 12:01:12 PM PDT
Patrick does have a good point.

Linda S.

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 8:08:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2012 8:15:35 PM PDT
Barb and all,

I am looking forward to a lively discussion of our book choice for April, the GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. The story, although not a mystery, held my interest from beginning to end.

Linda Marie

ETA that it doesn't make a whit of difference to me in we begin our discussion on the 1st or the 2nd of April.

Posted on Mar 26, 2012 11:43:58 AM PDT
L. M. Keefer says:
Looking forward to this discussion!

Thanks Anastasia and Barb for being willing to facilitate it. I love this book and will enjoy seeing what everyone thinks of it.

Posted on Mar 28, 2012 11:44:19 AM PDT
Jacquie says:
I'll definitely drop in on the discussion. I read the book some time ago and had one major complaint although overall enjoyed the read. See you in April

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 2:36:22 AM PDT
I'll be giving this discussion a miss. I'm busy trying to finish final edits on my second thriller to get it into the publisher. Don't have time to read the novel and it doesn't sound like my kind of book. But I will lurk from time to time to follow the discussion. Enjoy.

Posted on Mar 31, 2012 3:23:11 PM PDT
I too loved this book and can't wait to here what other think of it. I am especially interested to hear Jacquie's complaint about it as I wonder if it matches up with my criticism.

Barb - will you start us off tonight as you get to April Fool's before we do?

Posted on Mar 31, 2012 7:41:08 PM PDT
The other day I brought home a book from the library called THE BOOK CLUB COOK BOOK; RECIPES AND FOOD FOR THOUGHT FROM YOUR BOOK CLUB'S FAVORITE BOOKS AND AUTHORS by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. This is an updated and revised edition so it isn't really new. They have a website at www.bookclubcookbook.com.

Anyway, I found it interesting that there are two recipes for Potatoe Peel Pie! Annie Barrows writes that she doesn't think she ever ate a meal her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, cooked - that she wasn't so much a bad cook as she just didn't cook. She explained that Potato Peel Pie is a "semifictitious concoction" - that while there are first person accounts of the Occupation of the Channel Islands that refer to pies made with potato peelings, the one in the book is totally her aunt's invention. Barrows also suggested that her aunt would laugh and probably say, "Anyone who cooks a pie I made up gets what she deserves." And the reason there are two recipes is because, while the recipe in the book is "historically accurate and very easy to make, it is difficult to digest and tastes like paste." But as she says, "Nevertheless, for rigorous readers, the following recipe is terribly authentic." Then she follows the "authentic" recipe with what she calls a "Non-Occupied Potato Peel Pie." (This second recipe is basically for Potatoes Au Gratin.)
Kathy

Posted on Mar 31, 2012 8:29:57 PM PDT
Kathy,

I've thought that a good Potato Peel Pie might be made using essentially the components of loaded baked potatoes--baking potato including the skin, cream, sour cream, butter, green onions, Cheddar cheese, and bacon. Line pie pan with cooked bacon strips (or Canadian bacon), fill it with mashed potatoes and ingredients other than cheese; top with cheese and bake until everything is good and hot. Cut in wedges and serve. Obviously, this isn't the one from the book.

Don't know about a sweet one, but there is a form of candy made with mashed Irish potatoes, confectioner's sugar, and peanut butter. Maybe that could be manipulated into a pie form. But again, not the one from the book.

Linda S.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012 8:34:08 PM PDT
Oooh, Baked Potato Pie! That actually sounds rather good!
Kathy

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2012 8:26:46 AM PDT
Jacquie says:
Linda S.

We have a candy called Needham's which originated in Maine. It is made from Mashed Potato, sugar, but no peanut butter. Covered in really good dark chocolate it is absolutely delicious and I treat my self whenever I am in Maine at a wonderful candy store called Wilbur's. I've made Needhams myself, but never can duplicate the Wilbur's ones.

I can think of a lot of better way to use potato peels than in a pie!

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 8:32:28 AM PDT
Jacquie says:
I promised to tell what my compliant about this book is so here goes. It's really a general complaint - I don't like books that are written using correspondence (I think there is a technical term for this). I read the book because it had such good reviews, but felt all the way through that the story could be written in a much better fashion from using a more traditional way of telling it. It all seems so choppy. I like a book that can catch me up in the telling and not let me go.

Does that make sense? I hope so.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 9:01:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 1, 2012 9:29:53 AM PDT
Jacquie -

The term for novels composed of letters is 'epistolary novel' and it seems to be one of those things that you either like or hate. I gave Potato Peel to my mom and she had the same complaint and didn't finish, so you are not alone. I am a lover of the epistolary novel at least partly because the word epistolary is so much fun to say and you sound so smart saying it. :) I also like it because done well it gives immediate and intimate insight into all of the characters.

I liked this book a lot, both when I first read it a few years ago and upon my re-reads for this group. It is a feel good story. However, recently something disturbing came my way. I was reading a social history of the bubonic plague and the author mentioned that a historian had come up with a scale of historical events that had caused the most human misery and suffering. Number One on that list was WWII. Number One.

I like the literature and history of WWII both contemporary and current. I realize that there were a huge number of ways to suffer and die during that war but I am ashamed to say that I tend to admire the courage of those who survived, endured, fought and resisted.

So here is the question. Is there a tendency to romanticize WWII by descendants of the winners (that would be us for the most part) and does this book partake of that tendency?

I know this is a very big and serious question and nobody has to answer it, it just came up for me and I wondered what others thought. Alternately comments on why you liked or didn't like the book are more than welcome.

Welcome to the book thread everyone. Also, please submit your suggestions for shortening the book title to something easily typed.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 9:49:02 AM PDT
Hank says:
Thanks for the e-mail Barb. Am looking forward to this month's discussion. I've been out of circulation for quite awhile so I need to so some serious catching up!

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 10:16:03 AM PDT
L. M. Keefer says:
Anastasia, Barb and all:

re: book as letters--if the characters are charming enough, I enjoy reading the letters. 84, Charing Cross Road was such a book--between a New York gal and a British book store owner. Real letters.

re: WWII--yes, associate such sorrow with that war that I brace myself when I have to read a book intimately concerned with it. I don't mind reading books that take up when the war is over and talk about it which this book did in part, but while the war is going on especially in the occupied countries or London which is getting bombed, find it very sad. All of that destruction and loss of life primarily because of one mentally ill man, Adolf Hitler.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 10:28:51 AM PDT
I think part of why we admire the people who fought and survived is because we, as Americans, have had so little experience of it on our home territory. Actual invasions and occupations, even for relatively short periods of time, can be counted on the fingers of both hands, the major exception being, of course, the American Civil War when the South was occupied for almost fifteen years in some areas. The last federal troops were not removed from the Deep South until after the election of 1876.

I also think that part of our feeling for that generation comes from the fact that there was little contrary public opinion about the value of the fight against Germany and Japan once the war started for the US. They were "evil empires," resistance to them in whatever form was good, so those who resisted were by definition heroes.

Question for someone who knows more WWII history than I--how accurate is PPPIE's picture of German occupation of the Channel Islands? Based on PPPIE, it seems much less horrific than in most parts of mainland Europe.

Linda S.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 11:00:36 AM PDT
Linda S - I believe that the portrait of the occupation of the Channel Islands is fairly accurate. Even though Hitler was at war with England he also admired England and the English and in his fantasies saw England as an eventual racially pure junior partner in world domination. Some historians have said that this may be part of the reason Hitler didn't cross the Channel and invade England when he had the chance - and there was a chance. So, the citizens of the Channel Islands were generally treated a bit better than the other occupied countries.
The slave labor camps were as bad as the labor camps on mainland Europe and I think this aspect was underplayed in the book. And finally while the starvation was a main theme of the book I believe that things got much, much worse than could be portrayed in this kind of novel, not only for the slaves and the residents but for the Germans as well. This book inspired me to do some other reading about the Channel Islands. And for those who like to rent or stream I recommend Island at War and Enemy at the Door: Series 1. Both are excellent.

I agree that as Americans we have little understanding of what it is like to have a war in your country. Basically everybody starved across Europe for decades. Decades if you count from the deprivations of the Depression through until the ration ended ~1953. 12 million people died in labor, concentration and death camps - and that doesn't count the Japanese - only the Germans. Then there are the combatants and the non-combantants who died as a result of battle. People lost their homes forever and many their entire families. On this subject, what affect will this have on Elizabeth's daughter Kit? Yes, she is one of the lucky ones, surrounded by people who love her but her parents were dead before she could even know them and her mother's affair with a German officer may remain a questionable thing for some of the community for a long time.

Next question - how did you feel as a reader about how the German characters were portrayed - i.e. in a balanced way? I liked this and know it to be true of any group of humans, but I have to admit that I still have WWII propaganda in my head. Both my grandfather's fought in that war - maternal was a surgeon in the 82nd Airborne who jumped on D Day and paternal was a staff officer on a battleship in the Pacific Theatre. Basically I have to be careful to remind myself that Spielbergian portrayals of WWII era Germans aren't the entire picture.

Another question we might consider: What about women who slept with/dated German soliders/officers? Were they all sluttish, collaborating Jerry bags? What about the man who points out that a lot of those girls stuffed food in their handbags so that their families might eat? In other parts of Europe (Holland and France for sure) some women who dated Germans were killed, but many were shamed in other ways - heads shaved publically while naked, public beatings, children they bore shamed for decades. How does a community deal with this? Where is the gray area because I can see both sides - the need to punish and those who did what they thought they had to to eat and survive. How does a community heal after an occupation like this and does PPPIE explore this question?

Funny, I consider PPPIE a feel-good book and it is, but as I wrote this post I realized that there are a lot of serious questions hidden within it. Sorry this post is so long. I really am an obssessive student of WWII.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 11:33:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 1, 2012 11:35:10 AM PDT
Anastsia nd all,

I got the same sort of feeling from A TOWN LIKE ALICE, that there was a great deal omitted. Since the letters all date from 1946, as ALICE was early 1950s, the sexual predation of occupiers on the women of the occupied territories isn't discussed. It would appear from PPPIE that the only relationships were consensual, whatever the motivation of the women might have been. I just find it hard to believe that part is factual.

I can see leniency toward the Islanders while Hitler still expected to invade and conquer England and wanted to minimize British resistance, but after 1941, when it was clear that Operation Sea Lion wasn't going to happen, did conditions get as bad as they were in occupied areas of the continent?

It seemed to me that the Germans are portrayed in much the same way as the employers in THE HELP--a few good ones in the midst of mostly callous, uncaring, nasties. The authors do mention the soldiers sitting in the back of trucks with potatoes, or oranges, or coal, looking the other way while "accidentally" knocking some out for the children who followed the trucks, but these are the same men who guard the Todt workers and patronize the sex-slave brothels.

One thing that bothered me was how did Dawsey escape compulsory labor? It was common for able-bodied men (or even not so able) to be rounded up and transported where Germany needed them to dig fortifications, work in factories, whatever. Dawsey had a limp, but he was otherwise fit and strong, as were Eben and John Cooper. Or was this part of the 'model occupation' designed to weaken British resistance?

Linda S.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 11:41:57 AM PDT
Linda S and All -

That is a good point about Dawsey and Eben and forced labor and transport. I will try and look it up but I imagine it was to keep England and the English as sweet as possible in the event of an invasion. It strikes me as well that local residents would be required to keep the local economy going - farming, factories, government, etc and this might be why not all people were transported.

And of course not all physical relationships were voluntary. I would imagine that there was an element of coercion in even the most consensual. If you are the girlfriend/lover of a member of an invading and occupying army just who holds the power in the relationship. I doubt it is the girl. Rape and pillage were a huge part of WWII. The Rape of Nanking isn't just called that because the city was destroyed. And you really didn't want to be a German woman when the Red Army finally broke through. The stories about that are so hair-raising as to be almost unreadable.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 11:51:17 AM PDT
This is what Wikipedia has to say about Deportation on the Channel Islands:

Deportation


Plaque: From the rear of this building 1,186 English born residents were deported to Germany in September 1942. In February 1943 a further 89 were deported from another location in St. Helier.
In 1942, the German authorities announced that all residents of the Channel Islands who were not born in the islands, as well as those men who had served as officers in World War I, were to be deported. The majority of them were transported to the south west of Germany, notably to Ilag V-B at Biberach an der Riss and Ilag VII at Laufen, and Wurzach. This deportation decision came directly from Adolf Hitler, as a reprisal for German civilians in Iran[15] being deported and interned. The ratio was 20 Channel Islanders to be interned for every one German interned. Guernsey nurse Gladys Skillett, who was five months pregnant at the time of her deportation to Biberach, became the first Channel Islander to give birth while in captivity in Germany.[16]

The article also points out that there were 4 concentration/labor camps on the islands, so perhaps slave labor by the islanders wasn't needed and that resistance wasn't widespread partly due to the fact that there was one German soldier for every two islanders - a concentration that would make any resistance very difficult. Which brings us back to our book, our characters really took a risk with the pig, the book club, the Lord who wasn't a lord....many, many things that perhaps seem easier on the page then in reality.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 2:00:05 PM PDT
The epostorlary form is not my favorite. I rarely read books written by a team. There are a few exceptions. But, I have to admit, this was a gripping story. Would Juliet fall for the rotter from the U.S.? Sure, he was handsome, wealthy, and had a great tailor but we all knew he wasn't for her. Then, there was Dawsey. The perfect mate for Juliet. Big, strong, silent, not well educated, poor as a churchmouse but sensitive, kind, and caring. Just what every woman really wants.

And then came Remy. Oh, my god, I was on pins a needles. Would Dawsey out of a sense of responsibility go with Remy and care for her or would our Heroine win Dawsey and live happily ever after on the little island? It was close there. I am shocked only one of us had a heart attack.

I never realize a romance novel could be so exciting. Since I've never read a romance novel before I might be mistaken but that seemed to be story. Juliet and Mark. Dawsey and Remy. Juliet and Dawsey. Sidney and Mark?

After I finished the book I read some personal reviews. I often read reviews after I've finished the book. Some of the reviews were from people on Guernesey or one of the other channel islands or people quite familiar with the islenads and they questioned the authenticity of the story. Me? I don't know.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2012 2:15:17 PM PDT
Jacquie says:
Anastasia

Thanks for filling me in on the word Epistolary. I suppose coming from Epistle. I kept thinking as I was reading, "why didn't they just write a story"?

Keefer mentions 86 Charing Cross Road and I have admit that I liked that book, but I think I had already seen a film based on it so that might have made the difference.

Perhaps, we could just shorten it to Peel or something like that.

I think I've asked this before, but is there a way to correctly shorten your name. A nickname perhaps. I've already misspelled it once and I'm sure to do it again:)

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 2:30:15 PM PDT
Jacquie says:
Some excellent comments here on war from you all. I tend to think that an opinion on the "worst" of anything would vary from place to place or in the case of war, country to country. Even though we suffered great human loss in WWII and our population had to change their way of living and had to give up a great deal, I can't imagine that we can know what it was like to be in England or the Channel Islands, for instance, and what were their fears and their losses.

I always think of WWI as being more "horrible". The trenches, no man's land, etc. Very hard to read about. I like reading about the period between WWI and WWII, particularly in England. They were such a courageous people and really suffered for years after each war.

I think I tend to give a "pass" to the behavior of some during the war, especially if they were doing what they were in order to help or feed their families. Protecting the life of loved ones can change our values I would think. I wouldn't however condone that kind of behavior if it were threatening to others on "my" side. Hope I am making sense....
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Discussion in:  Mystery forum
Participants:  12
Total posts:  51
Initial post:  Mar 18, 2012
Latest post:  Apr 30, 2012

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