“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”
– Isola Pribby
Written in the form of letters, the book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows touches on the world-famous theme of World War II, which has caused so much sorrow to humanity. Despite the difficult topic, however, the authors manage to maintain a light tone with typical English humour, describing both moments of sadness and happiness of events during and after the war on the small island of Guernsey off the coast of Normandy and part of the islands of the British Channel.
The book The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society tells the story of Juliet Ashton, an author who became successful by describing military stories/events that she published in a local London newspaper.
Later on they are published under the title “Izzy Bickerstaff goes to war” by her good friend and publisher Sidney Stark.
Juliet Ashton receives a letter from Mr. Dawsey Adams of the small island of Guernsey, asking her for books by an author Charles Lamb from whom he recently read a book „Selected essays”. Dawsey has been fascinated by this author, who gave him such bright moments with his books during the German occupation. He wants to know if there are other books by this author, and since, according to a brief note in the book, they belonged to Juliet, he hopes to turn to her. In fact, he only asks her for an address in a bookstore in London, where he can order books from Lamb, thus beginning a deep friendship.
This is where the correspondence begins, which includes other people from Guernsey who are members of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, a club invented for protection during the German occupation of the island. The club dates back to the time of the German occupation and serves as a cover and protection during a roast pork dinner, which was then banned. During the correspondence, both sides (Juliet on the one hand and the club members on the other) shared their experiences during the war and how they dealt with everyday problems.
Friendship and trust are born between all participants in the correspondence.
And although their destinies were very different, they found a common language, the language of books, and became so interested/close that Juliet decided to visit the island of Guernsey, where she stayed living afterwards. During the exchange of letters, and when she arrived on the island, an idea for a new book is formed, for which she begins to collect stories – the story of Elizabeth, a браве woman who puts others before her during the war.
The book The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, although written lightly, at times leaves a heavy feeling of memories of the war, of the pain it caused, of the cruelty it brought. It does not avoid the topic of concentration camps and the misery in which people lived, there is pain in the stories of the separation of parents from their children, in an attempt to save the little ones. But it shows that even in difficult times, something beautiful can be born (like the love of Elizabeth and Christian), that there is a power to unite people to make new and strong friendships. Love also has the power to unite two seemingly hostile nations. It is not afraid of war, it does not stop in front of occupied and occupying units. And most importantly – every evil has its end and the sunny moments of hope and “new life” comes.
“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”
– Juliet Ashton
A film was made based on the book, which, however, in our opinion, deviates to some extent from the line of history. Yes, there is a basis, but there are many discrepancies and although the film is well made and well played, for us the book remains preferable, much more detailed, it also pays attention to the characters that are completely omitted in the movie, such as Eben’s daughter, who died in hospital at birth, or Remy, with whom Elizabeth spent her last months in a concentration camp and who later on visited Guernsey.
“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 bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”
– Juliet Ashton