Thursday, August 14, 2008

Potato Peels


If you are like me, your curiosity is piqued by the potato peels in the title of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I am only 70 pages into the book, and already I don't want it to end. I am burrowing in, trying to savor its leisurely progression (I have a tendency to read too fast). It is a charming novel told in letters. So far, I think it is a sure pick for the library's book discussion group.

Back to the potato peels... On the British island of Guernsey during the Nazi Occupation, the local people had little food to live on. The Germans took all their livestock. One clever islander developed a pie filled with mashed potatoes, sweetened with beets and lined with a crust made of potato peels. The Literary Society was at first a ruse some late night revelers made up to cover up their partying past the German-imposed curfew. Then it became a real book group, where islanders who previously read little, began to read a lot. It helped with the boredom of living under occupation.

The main character here is Juliet Ashton, a London writer who is in correspondence with various members of the Guernsey islanders. I felt sorry for Juliet when I read how she lost her book collection in the Blitz. Even though this book is set in the years right after World War II, in the lives of its characters, the war is very much in evidence. Homes are still in rubble, soldiers lost, rationing still in effect, etc. And on the island of Guernsey, everyone is still worried about a missing woman named Elizabeth who arrested by the Germans and taken away. Elizabeth helped start the Literary Society. So that is about as much as I know at this point, but I am raring to read the rest of it soon.

Annie Barrows finished this novel after her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer passed away earlier this year. Shaffer was an editor, librarian and bookseller. Barrows is a children's author. Thank goodness she was ready and able to finish her aunt's book.

For read-alikes, see this list of Epistolary Fiction found on the HCPL website.

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