Monday, February 13, 2017

[Book Review] The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows book review

Another lovely five-star romance read for my February!

I picked this book up on a whim after hearing it discussed on a podcast, and I am so glad that I did. I really enjoyed everything about this book and would highly recommend it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This book is set in post-World War II England. When we enter the story, Juliet, a writer of a newspaper column during the war which was later turned into a book, is trying to think of a good idea for her second book. When a man named Dawsey from an island called Guernsey writes to her out of the blue after acquiring one of her old books, she may have found her story! A story along with so much more... 

When I first started reading this book, I was a bit thrown by the format; it is a series of letters between various characters. To keep each character straight, I had to make some notes that I referred to on and off until I had everyone figured out. I really appreciated that each new letter begins with a note that tells you who the letter is from and to. Example: From Juliet to Sidney. However, this was so beautifully written that it sucked me right in.

Here are my character notes, just in case this helps anyone. 

Note: there are some slight spoilers ahead, and this is NOT the full character list.

Juliet- main character, author
Sidney- Juliet's publisher and childhood friend 
Dawsey- man from Guernsey who acquired one of Juliet’s books.
Sophie- Juliet's childhood friend, her brother (Sidney) owns the publishing firm.
Susan- traveling with Juliet 
Markham Reynolds- American publisher
Amelia Maugery- member of the potato peel society, asked to write to Juliet by Dawsey
Eben Ramsey- society member, grandpa to Eli
Clovis Fossey- society member, researched poetry to win over a woman (he married her!)
Adelaide Addison- islander, total party pooper. Tried to stop Juliet from writing to the society. 
John Booker- society member, saved from being a drunk by reading, sent to a concentration camp during the war
Will Thisbee- society member, first to suggest that Juliet visit the island
Clara Saussey- was once a society member, she got kicked out when she wouldn't stop reading recipes from her own cookbook.
Eli- society member and wood carved, carves animals for Kit 
Isola- society member, adorable, once fell off her chicken coop.

The character development was absolutely incredible. I loved that we got to learn about each person through both what they themselves wrote in letters to Juliet, as well as from what their friends and neighbors what wrote to Juliet about. 

I fell in love with the majority of these characters so very quickly. The society members seemed so lovely and real that it was like they were my own small-town neighbors! I loved how willing they all were to write to Juliet to give her information about their society and their lives. Each of their excitement was very clear and I thought it was adorable.

Of course, there two were horrible characters that I wanted to smack quite badly. But even those two were written in a very interesting way. 

Juliet was an awesome female main character. I loved her humor, her love of writing and books, and her persistence. I was nervous for her for a short time. But I wanted to cheer when she stood up to Mark when he proposed, saying that she didn’t know him well enough yet because after all, it had only been two months. It was clear from his letters that Mark was pushy. I got super angry when he seemed to simply ignore Juliet’s suggestions to propose his own plans. 

The romance did not take up much of the book. It was a classic case of shyness, temporary denial, and misunderstanding where I just wanted someone to point out the obvious love interest to the two love birds. However, the scene where love was finally professed was absolutely wonderful. It was so perfect and it made me both laugh out loud and grin. 

Of course, being set in post-WWII, there was a lot of discussion about what happened to the islanders during the war. Most of these passages were very difficult to read, but they were also very wonderfully written. 

Favorite passages: 
I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.

Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. 

That's what I love about reading: One tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bid there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive- all with no end in sight, and for no other reason then sheer enjoyment.

Your questions regarding that gentleman are very delicate, very subtle, very much like being smacked in the head with a mallet.

Isola reached me first by leaping over a crate of lobsters and grabbed me up in a fierce hug that swung me off my feet. “Ah, lovey!” she cried while I dangled. 
Wasn’t that dear? All my nervousness was squeezed righto out of me along with my breath. 

The sea and the clouds don't stay the same for five minutes running and I'm scared I'll miss something if I stay inside.

I am in a constant state of surprise these days. Actually, now that I calculate, I’ve been betrothed only one full day, but it seems like my whole life has come into being in the last twenty-four hours. 

This obsession with dignity can ruin your life if you let it. 

All my life I thought that the story was over when the hero and heroine were safely engaged- after all, what’s good enough for Jane Austen ought to be good enough for anyone. But it’s a lie. The story is about to begin, and every day will be a new piece of the plot. 

My final thoughts:
I flew through this book! I thought that everything about it was just so lovely. The storyline was fun, the characters were amazing, and the romance was so well done. I was worried about one romance trope that I absolutely despise, but I was very happy to see it crash and burn. 

Five stars!


  1. I loved this book too! Even the little bits about authors like Wilkie Collins and The Brontes was so much fun to read. So glad you enjoyed it. :) Check out the newspaper clipping which was mentioned in the book (I've posted it on my blog) - -

  2. I loved this book! It's going to be a movie soon. :)