Books, Guestblog

#MyMojo -The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Anamika

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Good Morning Folks! Today I have the good fortune of having one of my favourite Book reviewers – Anamika Agnihotri – do up a fabulous review of a book set in the Second World War era. – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Its a book I really loved reading and later watched the movie too.

Guernsey book club and potato peel pie society - Second world war - book review- guestpost

Anamika Agnihotri is a mother of a 6-year-old son, D. She is an observer, an optimist, an introvert, a spiritual seeker and an eternal learner. Anamika is committed to the cause of raising a reader. She blogs about her parenting journey with her son, about the fun anecdotes from their lives and about her love for books on her blog ‘The Bespectacled Mother‘. 

She also writes children’s books reviews on her other blog The Yellow Book Shelf. She has been contributing parenting articles and Picture Book reviews for various online forums such as BabyChakra, World of Moms, Indian Moms Connect and Mompresso.

You can connect with her on –

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Book Review

A few years ago, I came across a book review on a blog of the book ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. I found the name too long and much of a tongue twister. I couldn’t come to pronounce the word ‘Guernsey’ in my head and, believe it or not, this handicap held me back from picking up this book for reading although the review said the book is good. In May, this year, I found out there was a movie based on the book which released in April 2018. I watched the trailer and, finally, I knew how to pronounce the word ‘Guernsey’ right. The impediment being dismissed, hence, I sat down to read the book which I must have bought more than a year ago.

Story – 

The story begins in London in January 1946 with Juliet Ashton, an author, writing a letter to her editor/publisher/friend Sidney Stark of being tired of the book tours for her successful book ‘Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War‘. At the same time, she is also looking out for a story to write her new book. She receives a letter from an unknown person, Dawsey Adam, a resident of the island of Guernsey, telling her he found her name and address from a book which incidentally landed in his hands. As he liked it very much, he requests her to send a name and address of a London bookstore so that he can order more books by the same author.

What followed were subsequent and frequent letter exchanges between Dawsey Adam and Juliet Ashton through which Juliet gets to know Dawsey is a member of a book club by the name The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’, the back story of a roast pig playing a role in the setting up of the book club, the name and the idea coming into existence with the presence of mind exercised by another islander, Elizabeth McKenna, in the wake of an extremely unfavourable situation during the German occupation of the island during World War 2.

This was further followed by a trail of letters from the other book club members detailing their own reading journey with the book club and how the book club meetings became a saving grace in the difficult times of the war when they had nothing else to look forward to.

Driven by an intense desire to meet the inhabitants of Guernsey, Juliet sets out of London leaving behind a wealthy suitor ignoring his marriage proposal. When she sets foot on Guernsey, she finds there is more to the picturesque beauty of Guernsey and the Islanders’ book club stories. There were numerous stories of loss, death, pain and suffering at the hands of Germans during the 5 years of occupation. One character who came out as the hero of those times was Elizabeth McKenna, a strong woman who touched almost all the lives there with her courage. She was eventually arrested for aiding a slave worker and was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp in France.

What was the roast pig story? Did Elizabeth come back with the war already over? Did Juliet manage to get her story for her new book? What happened to the marriage proposal of the wealthy suitor who promised her all the luxuries? Or did she settle down with somebody from Guernsey?

My Review – 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a historical fiction novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows that was published in 2008.

The book is an epistolary novel, composed of letters written from one character to another. (The word epistolary was new to me.) This is not the first such book that I have read but I love the idea of writing and receiving letters and thus loved this one from the beginning for this reason.

However, I have to admit, after a point, the letters got just too much to handle and I had to concentrate hard on who is writing to whom. I even paid attention to how each one signed off at the end of their letters to take a note of the formality and politeness. Hence, when I saw Dawsey Adam signing off as ‘Yours ever’ in one of his letters to Juliet, I couldn’t help but gasp “What was that about? Was he hinting something to Juliet without saying anything else until now?” Oh! He never said anything after this too staying true to his shy character.

The painful stories of the German occupation times left me moist-eyed, especially the one where small children had to be separated from their parents and families in order to be sent to England for their safety. How heart-wrenching it must have been for all of them to bear something like this! The author also brings out the other aspect where the children who stayed behind on Guernsey did not have an easy life either having to deal with starvation and lack of medical facilities.

She also brings out not everyone on the Germans’ side was cruel and ruthless, bringing out the difference between individual and collective conscience.

The author paints a world of 1946 where a majority of the characters are sweet and kind. Their goodness stays unaffected by the atrocities they had faced in the past. There are certain negative characters who appear a few times but they only end up being mild inconveniences in the narrative and hence get sorted out quite easily.

I loved Juliet’s character more than Elizabeth McKenna for Juliet appears to be far more real with her whimsical manners. She is polite, stern and yet funny. I laughed many times reading about the working of her mind in her letters to Sidney and her friend Sophie.

My verdict – 

If a book can make me laugh or think deeply, I love that book. And, this one did make me laugh. It was an easy read. It has something to drool over for the romantics. The romantic in me wants to pack my bags, catch the flight and land in Guernsey right away.

My only biggest complaint from this book is it ended too soon and abruptly.

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guernsey book club and potato peel pie society - Second world war - book review- guestpost

Have you read this book? What do you have to say about it?

If you loved reading this review of the book and are intrigued by it, then perhaps you would like to read mine too. Catch it here

Check out my Guestpost on Anamika’s blog about one of my favourite series from Enid Blyton – any guesses which one?

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19 thoughts on “#MyMojo -The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Anamika

  1. I watched the film before I could lay my hands on the book. It was a beautiful movie that made me laugh, think and cry in a matter of 75-80 mins. I can’t read a book once I have watched its movie adaptation, it interferes with my imagination. It’s a lovely review anamika..and I agree Guernsey is weird as name woukdnt have known it too if hadn’t watched the film.

  2. This was one of the best reads of the year for me. I don’t have Netflix so I didn’t watch the movie yet. But the book is something I will dive into again and again. It spoke to me in so many different ways. My favourite character was Dawsey. His inflections, his mannerisms and everything really appealed to my instincts. So good to see this review and to also see you on Shalini’s blog, Anamika.

    A well-written review.

    1. You are so so welcome Anu. You must read Book Thief as that is one very close to my heart when it comes to this era. Its just brilliantly written by Markus Zusak and just shouldnt be missed by anyone.

  3. I loved the book and read it a little while ago. Then, recently I watched the film and loved it more. I never saw Dawsey and Juliet together so that came as a complete surprise/shock. The romantic in me was of course quite thrilled but the pragmatic me often wonders what happened after the book ended – as in was the well-read, city-bred Juliet actually happy with Dawsey? Was their mutual love for books enough?

  4. Nice review. I heard some great things about the book plus I’ve read a great Epistolary novel —Love Virtually {my favourite!} so bought this book but I am struggling to finish it {almost 35% done}. There are so many characters, so many people are writing so many letters to so many people. Like Anamika says, ‘It’s too much to handle’, and the story seems to go no where. But, many good readers/reviewers have loved it so I am still trying.

    Glad you loved it finally. 🙂

  5. Adding this to my TBR list for next year. The name does sound intriguing. And I would want to read the book, just so that I could figure how the story justifies the title. A romance focused story in the time of war that too an epistolary also make for a good reason to pick this one up.

  6. The movie is a good one. Anshu, since you have watched the movie, I would suggest not to pick up the book for reading too soon if you intend to anyway. While the baisc plot remains the same as the book, the characters, their relationships and even the ending have been changed in the screenplay. A book made into a movie, as it is, hardly works. When I watched the movie after finishing reading the book, I felt cheated and so, I went back to re-reading it to preserve the story in my mind in its originality.

  7. Thank you, Shailaja, for giving this review a read. I agree Dawsey was a pleasant character. As for the movie, it is really good in a stand alone way. It has been adapted from the book with many changes. Saner people will be fine with it but it muddled up the characters in my head making me go back to re-reading the book.

  8. Tarang, your thoughts about the craziness of too many letters and too many people give me a sense of relief because until now I have read nobody talking about this aspect because it did tend to become a bit difficult. Also, thanks for mentioning another epistolary novel. I will look it up and add tto my TBR.

  9. Tulika, yours was actually the first review I had read of this book and I clearly remember you had mentioned it in the last lines about the impracticality of a relationship working out between a city bred author and a pig farmer. My thoughts were you were right. May be there love and connection was enough to last for a life time or may be not. The abrupt ending of the book leaves the reader with a lot of possibilities to imagine. My favourite would be the wealthy suitor coming back in vengeance and killing Dawsey. What say?

  10. A thoughtful review, Anamika. After Anne Frank’s Diary, I’ve never ventured into a world war book. Stories on world war takes me to a deeper level of melancholy that I wonder what was the whole need of a war. Philosophy aside, the idea of interconnected letters is sure provoking to read.

  11. Lovely review! I’ve seen the movie even though I haven’t read the book yet and it was such a lovely treat. If anything, it made me want to read the book even more so I definitely can’t wait to give this a read because I know I’ll definitely enjoy it.

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