The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever. (via Goodreads)
Why was I interested in this book?
I watched the Netflix distributed film version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a while back. When I found out that the book was written in epistolary form, I was curious how the story would be pulled off in letter/diary form.
Turns out, the novel version is quite different from the film version.
What Worked…with the Film
I have to admit that there are occasions when I think the film version of a book is better than the book itself. This is one of those occasions. The screenplay writers (Kevin Hood, Don Roos, and Tom Bezucha) keep key elements from the novel, but give the narrative some mystery: who is Elizabeth McKenna and where is she now? In the book, those questions are answered rather quickly. The third point of Juliet and Dawsey’s the romantic triangle is provided by a completely different character who is dropped from the film altogether. In the film, Juliet also has some misgivings about the slightly mercenary nature her task. As an outsider to Guernsey, should she be the one telling their stories? This provides the character of Juliet with a more realistic level of uncertainty about the situation. Juliet of the book rarely seems completely uncertain of anything. She is maybe too perfect.
If any World War II narrative can be a pleasant way to pass the time, it’s this one.
Publishing info, first printing: Dial Press, 2008
My Copy: Kindle/Overdrive in-browser, Tempe Overdrive library
Genre: historical fiction
The film is directed by Mike Newell, starring Lily James and