by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Random Hosue, 2008
Try it. You’ll like it! The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society needs no deep literary analysis. It’s simply a good read, recommended by both my daughter (a Generation Xer) and a friend who teacher college level Creative Writing. What stays with my daughter is the easy way it read and the love story. What stays with my friend, and with me, is the information gleaned about life during World War II for those English citizens on the Channel Islands off the mainland.
A series of letters propels the stories and the plot. No chapters, just letters from various persons to various other persons, though the main character, Julia, writes most of the them. I wasn’t sure whether this device was going to grow tiresome. But it didn’t. As I said, it propelled the plot well. And new characters were easily introduced through letters they sometimes penned themselves. Because the letters are fairly short – few running more than a page – it was an easy bedtime read! You only needed to read a few stories to stay with the plot. (A little like TV “soap operas.” I don’t mean any denigration of the novel with this comment. But the drama in the story is pretty clearly on the surface most of them time as in that other genre!)
The back story on the author(s) is touching too. Mary Ann Shaffer began the book. An editor and librarian and member of a writing group, she was finally determined to finish “something,” She brought her work almost to completion, the manuscript accepted by a major publishing company. Then illness made it impossible for her to attend to final editing of the manuscript. That is when her niece, Annie Barrows, author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean stepped in to help. Shaffer died in 2008 just before the book was finally published. Annie Barrows tribute to her aunt, in an afterword is tender and a reminder of the importance of the storytellers in our families.