The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer – Some Book Group Questions

Image result for guernsey literary and potato peel pie society book

This is the first in an occasional series of sets of questions for book groups which I have used with some success on a particular book; they can be discussion points, or just for looking at as individuals. I hope that they will be of interest!

The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society must be one of the longest titles for a novel; do you think that it works? Why?

The format of this novel is a bit unusual – while some of the earliest novels were in letter form (Clarissa, Pamela) – it is not that common today. Do you think it works? Why? Did you need a crib sheet of characters? Any other comments?

One comment is that all the characters in this book are “loveable”. Is this true? Are there any that show themselves as less than pleasant (not counting the anonymous German soldiers)? Can you get an idea of what they are like from letters, either their own and other people’s? What about Elizabeth, who has not actually written? Is it significant that most of the important characters are female?

The setting, Guernsey, is well described as a place and closed community. How do you feel about it having read the book? How is it contrasted with post war London? There is also the question of the American involvement in the character of Mark. What about the German characters?

This book is set in 1946. How significant is that timing?

Mary Ann Shaffer was unable to publish this book alone, owing to her health. Is that important?

This is a book about a book group and the power of reading when times are hard. You could try listing all the books and authors mentioned, which could be enough to keep everyone occupied for a while! How important are reading and books to your life?

Finally, this book has been made into a film. How many people have seen it? Is it like the book? What did you think?


I hope that this has given a few thoughts on a book that has been popular with both book groups that I have been in when looking at this very readable novel. My thanks go to members of the Bookworms group in Derby, who are an immensely cosy lot… Would this sort of post be of interest again? How many of you are members of a Book Group? If you cannot get to a Book Group, would this sort of post be of interest to you?


Over the next few days I am due to review some varied books. I do hope that there is at least one that will interest you; they are very different from each other!

A literary society and a book group

I have mentioned before that I’m a member of two book groups. But what with the bad weather and festive celebrations two meetings were cancelled. Which has somehow meant that I’ve already read the next four books…Well, I suppose that means I won’t have to do a last minute panic read of some good books. The only problem is that I need to remember who I lent/gave my copies of the books to; Daughter ‘s bookshelves here I come!

The book that we discussed last night was greatly enjoyed by all. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

was originally picked as quite a short read for December’s book, but the drive of the host’s house was so slippery the meeting was postponed until yesterday. Which meant that I had my copy back in excellent time to reread this really good book.

The novel is in the form of letters written to, and by, a writer called Juliet. During the Second World War she wrote a magazine column, now collected into a book, and she is promoting the sale of this book published through her good friend Sidney. She emerges as quite a character who throws teapots at nasty journalists, lives in a flat after her home full of cherished books is flattened by the Blitz, and is wooed by a rich American. By chance she is contacted by a survivor of the German Occupation of the Isle of Guernsey, who lets slip that he was a member of the Literary Society of the title. Intrigued, and keen to write an article about the importance of reading in holding people together, she invites other members of the society to write to her. The letters she receives recount the reality of life on the island, in all its difficulties, challenges and personalties.

The format of the book sounds a little off putting, but having waded through many books of letters I would say that this is really good presentation for the simple reason that each letter is headed by the name of the sender and recipient. It is debatable whether the characters are distinguished enough in their writing styles, but the overall effect is satisfying. Some characters emerge as likable, mystifying, annoying and downright daft, but all worth reading about, especially in their choice of books.

This book is a well written, interesting read, satisfying in most outcomes, and with some harrowing moments, which are bearable in context. I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it widely. It is not the most trendy, cutting edge or sophisticated book that you will read, but it is unusual, and sadly, as the only novel by Mary Ann Shaffer, unique.