The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

I wasn’t going to write about this book, but then I watched the movie and for some reason it made me feel like I needed to talk about it. I thought that I didn’t have much to say, but it’s so well written and I really enjoyed getting to know the characters that I thought it a necessary book to share.

I learned about the movie first because I had heard that the owner of a very popular bookstore in Miami (Books and Books) was one of the producers of the film.

The premise of this book, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows, follows an author in London who receives a letter from a gentleman on the island of Guernsey asking for books for the book club he is part of. As they exchange letters, the author learns that they were under German Occupation during World War II. The author decides to visit the island so that she can meet the members of the club and to satisfy her curiosity about what life was like for them.

I wish I’d known those words on the days I watched those German troops land—plane-load after plane-load of them—and come off ships down in the harbor! All I could think was damn them, damn them, over and over. If I could have thought the words “the bright day is done and we are for the dark,” I’d have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstances— instead of my heart sinking into my shoes.

This book is an epistolary novel which means that it is written “as a series of documents.” In this case the documents are letters.

While I question her taste, her judgement, her misplaced priorities, and her inappropriate sense of humor, she does indeed have one fine quality—she is honest. If she says she will honor the good name of the literary society, she will do so. I can say no more.

The novel and the movie are both wonderful. The movie takes a little artistic licensing of course, but in a way that still keeps the authenticity of what occurs in the novel and doesn’t in any way completely change the storyline. What is really cool about the version of the book that I read was that it was called a “deluxe annotated ebook.” Since the novel is historical fiction, anytime a person, place, or historical occurrence was brought up in the book, the reader can click on it and will learn more about it. I really think that it should be the future of historical fiction ebooks and I hope to find more of them!

Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.

This is truly a delightful novel book and the only one written by Mary Ann Schaffer before her death.

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