EXCERPT: From Amelia Maugery to Juliet
8 February 1946
Dear Miss Ashton,
Dawsey Adams has just been to call on me. I have never seen him as pleased with anything as he is with your gift and letter. He was so busy convincing me to write to you by the next post that he forgot to be shy. I don’t believe he is aware of it, but Dawsey has a rare gift for persuasion – he never asks for anything for himself, so everyone is eager to do what he asks for others.
He told me of your proposed article and asked if I would write to you about the literary society we formed during – and because of – the German occupation. I will be happy to do so, but with a caveat.
A friend from England sent me a copy of ‘Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War.’ We had no news from the outside world for five years, so you can imagine how satisfying it was to learn how England endured those years herself. Your book was as informative as it was amusing and entertaining – but it is the amusing tone that I must quibble with.
I realise that our name, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, is an unusual one and could easily be subjected to ridicule. Would you assure me that you will not be tempted to do so? The society members are very dear to me, and I do not wish them to be perceived as objects of fun by your readers.
Would you be willing to tell me of your intentions for the article and also something of yourself? If you can appreciate the import of my questions, I should be glad to tell you about the Society. I hope I shall hear from you soon.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.
MY THOUGHTS: I hate to think how long I have had a copy (paperback)of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on my shelves. It’s one of those books that I look at frequently, thinking ‘I must read that,’ and then pick up something else to fill the hours my Kindle is on the charger. But this time, instead of passing it by, yet again, I pulled it off the shelf.
I didn’t think that I was going to enjoy it at first. For although some of the letters were amusing, particularly the one concerning the teapot incident, I don’t find reading a series of letters between different people to be a particularly effective plot device. I like to be there, in the thick of it, rather than reading about it. And this story is told entirely by letter and telegram.
But somewhere along the line, the people in these letters began to be very real, their personalities shining through and, believe me, there are some very strong, very quirky characters. The letters themselves are a mixed bag, from the very formal to informal notes, long and short, from and to a wide variety of characters. It is through these letters/telegrams that we gain a comprehensive picture of the ingenuity of these Island people, their grit and determination, their unwillingness to succumb to the German rule.
And running through this is two love stories, one of a local girl for a German during the war, the other taking place with Juliet. But this is not a romance novel. It is a story of strength, loyalty and friendship. It is absorbing, sad and joyous.
I believe that this has now been made into a movie. Dare I watch it? I am inevitably disappointed by the movie adaptations of books I have enjoyed. I think that, if I do, I shall wait some time, until my memories of the book have blurred and faded a little.
THE AUTHOR: Mary Ann Shaffer worked as an editor, a librarian, and in bookshops. Her life-long dream was to someday write her own book and publish it. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel. Unfortunately, she became very ill with cancer and so she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, the author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean, as well as The Magic Half, to help her finish the book. Mary Ann Shaffer died in February 2008, a few months before her first novel was published. (Goodreads.com)
DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, written by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows, published by Dial Press. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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