By Chet Yarbrough
By: Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
Narrated by: Paul Baymer, Susan Dewidan, Roselyn Landor, John Lee, Juiliet Mills
In 1976, Mary Ann Shaffer begins researching the 1940 German occupation of Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands. After complet-
ing her research, Shaffer starts writing the story of Guernsey’s WWII’ occupation but the book does not get finished by Shaffer; i.e. it is completed by Annie Barrows, her niece (an editor and published writer), because illness takes Shaffer’s life before the book is published. Shaffer dies in February 2008; the book is published in July of the same year.
Popularity of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” surprises and delights those who enjoy historical novels. The surprise comes from the letter-writing format of the story; the delight comes from the skillful audiobook narration of 5 talented word-spinners.
Reading letters about WWII hardly seems a very good way to tell a story but Shaffer and Barrows change one’s mind with the “…Potato Peel Pie Society”. Letters between a fictional author and Guernsey Island residents tell a seamless story of the island’s military occupation during WWII. It tells the story of its resident’s experience, before, during, and after the occupation, and adds a poignant tale of romance.
Though the characters that write the letters are fictional, their life experiences resonate with the true history of Guernsey Island’s German’ occupation; i.e. the Nazis captured the island and attempted to turn it into a fortress against seaborne invasion of Europe. Fortifications were out of proportion to the tactical value of the island but stories of deported Guernsey residents to Auschwitz and Alderney concentration camps are verifiably true.
VIDEO OF THE GERMAN FORTIFICATIONS: <iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/30MIYN63_S4” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>iframe>
The “…Potato Peel Pie Society” reveals the human diversity, strength, and tenacity of the English in WWII. The fictional Guernsey residents resist occupation by fooling their occupiers and subverting Nazi’ rules and regulations. The formation of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a symbol of English resistance.
Most of the Islanders hated the Germans but glimpses of the distinction that could be made between “good” and “bad” Germans, even in the occupation, are acknowledged in Shaffer and Barrows’ story. A German military doctor marries one of the Islanders and is accepted by many of the Island leaders. Both good and bad residents of Guernsey are revealed in the novel, some of which collaborated with the Germans to get favored treatment; others that actively resisted and were murdered or deported to concentration camps.
Humanness is clearly on display in Shaffer and Barrows entertaining story. This is a good read, judged by its many positive reviews, but the audio version adds dimension to its blunt, poignant, and sometimes, comic correspondence.
GUERNSEY TOURIST PROMOTION VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/embed/mqtJ-Q84wi0” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
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