Picks and Pans Review: Letters from a Troubled Isle
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This novel by first-time author Mary Ann Shaffer (who died earlier this year) and her niece, children’s author Annie Barrows (Ivy and Bean), is a jewel. Told in an exchange of letters between Juliet Ashton, a London newspaper columnist, and members of a reading group that calls itself the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the book combines quirky and delightful characters with fascinating history, bringing alive the five-year occupation of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, by the Nazis during World War II. In 1946 Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a Guernsey farmer, who’s found her name inside an old book. Their ensuing correspondence opens Juliet’s eyes to the horrors of occupation: food shortages, slave labor, deportations to the concentration camps. The Society—started so its members would have an alibi if they were out past curfew—became far more: their reason to persevere. Eager to write about her new pals, Juliet heads for the island, little realizing that her life is about to be transformed. Poignant and keenly observed, Guernsey is a small masterpiece about love, war and the immeasurable sustenance to be found in good books and good friends.