Sadness and Potato Peels: A Book Review

I don’t generally take the time to finish books that I don’t like. Sometimes, if I feel that I must, I’ll push through, but for the most part, I have no need to torture myself. So, it follows that I would be statistically prone to writing favorable book reviews. I fear this is inevitable, and I will never be an objective reviewer of books for any publication that wants the good, the bad, and the ugly. Alas.

All this is to say that I am well aware that I only share the books that I love. You can’t count on me to warn you off of the clunkers.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was not a clunker.

loved this book. I was wary, as it is written as a series of letters, but thankfully, the letters are amazing. I’m not sure that you could find a more colorful cast of characters that I could completely believe in, and their vip and verve come through in every one of their words, and even their silences.

I loved this book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gorgeous. I’m in a bit of a British humor rut, so I may not be completely free of bias, but I couldn’t have enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society more. Mary Ann Shaffer does a tremendous job of bringing bright compassion to the War and those in its wake, love to the people of London, and vivid color to the island of Guernsey and its inhabitants. The Pig Did It was another of those books that transported me to a lovely place on the British Isles, but Potato Peel did more than that. This book made each and every character count, and developed them intensely through only a few short pages.

Written as a series of letters and telegraphs between a young English author, Juliet, after the War, and her publisher, her publicist, and her best friend, as well as a whole cast of strangers from a far-off island, Potato Peel manages to get inside each and every head present, even though 80% of the book pours forth from Juliet’s mind and pen alone. It explores love from at least a handful of angles, the definition of a life well-lived, compassion and how it can go wrong, existential crises of the unknowing, wartime atrocities and the humanity that can come, compassion and how it can go right, and the power of fresh air and meaningful relationships.

I loved it. My family is probably wearying of my whining that it’s all over. Sigh.

Thankfully, Mary Ann Shaffer’s niece, Annie Barrows, who finished the book for her when she fell ill, has recently written an adult novel of her own. Ordering it up right now.

But now what do I do? When a book is this good, I wind up mopey and pathetic at the prospect of finding the next great fiction read. I have Some Luck, The Secret Life of Bees, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the sequel to Shadow of the Wind sitting on my pile staring at me. I just ordered a few more, People of the Book, The Truth According to Us, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Anyone has any opinions, I’d love to hear them. Warren Buffett and Washington are riveting reads, but they’re not going to fill this void.


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