Review: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Book Reviews, Literature

Guernsey. A tiny British tax-haven, just off the coast of France. The only territory of the crown that was ever occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War… Unfortunately, this happened to be almost everything I knew about Guernsey. That is until I got my hands on Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

In sickness and in health, in peril and in joy… For many of us books are always there, some books are a home, if you like. A safe harbor to come back to, when life gets dark. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a story about the joys of reading and the ways the books helped Guernsey residents make it through the German occupation that lasted almost as long as the Second World War itself.

What is it like? To live for five years without any news from the outside world…? Juliet, a successful columnist and writer starts to ask herself the question when she receives a letter from a Guernsey resident, who happened to have come in possession of an old book that used to belong to her. Dawsey asks Juliet’s help in finding a book by the same author and tells her the story of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, the organization that a woman named Elizabeth invented on-the-spot, to save herself and her friends, who were returning from an illegal roast-pork dinner and were caught by German patrol… So begins the story of dinner attendees who started to meet by-weekly to maintain the ruse and to fall in love with reading once again…

Juliet’s story unravels in a series of letters between her, her publishing friends, an overindulgent suitor and Guernsey residents. Without even meeting them in real life, Juliet forges an unbreakable bond of friendship with the islanders, deciding to first visit, and then stay and start writing a book about the Occupation. Slowly, Juliet’s latest literary endeavor turns into a biography of Elizabeth. A woman of great courage, lively spirit and conviction, Elizabeth was no ordinary character. During the Occupation, she worked as a nurse, fell in love with a good German doctor (who later died) and had his child. One day Elizabeth got arrested for sheltering a teenage Polish slave worker and was seen no more, leaving behind a lingering imprint on Guernsey residents and Potato Peel Society members, who promised to bring her daughter up together…

Touching, endearing and funny, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is an absolute literary treat. The film adaptation project, which has been in the works for a few years now, surely is one I would be looking forward to.

Overall note: 5

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