The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

BOOK: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
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Praise for
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

‘When was the last time you read a book that made you feel really good? Actually elevated your mood, brought a smile to your face and make you feel warm and hopeful and happy about the human race? If it's been a while, turn immediately now please to the curiously named
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
… This is such a delightful novel it recently inspired another reviewer to say she actually wanted to hug the book upon finishing it, and it's an understandable reaction.'

Sunday Telegraph

‘Readers beware—don't even try to hold onto your heart, because it will be swept away by this glorious new book … original, heart-warming, witty and captivating [this] book had me mesmerised … The plot is creative, the characters are life-like, eccentric and loveable and the language is sublime.'

Good Reading

‘… it subtly reminds readers that books change the way we feel.'

Sunday Tasmanian

‘… a cogent reminder of the terrible hardship that the people of occupied Guernsey experienced. As a result of this, they [the characters] are gentle towards each other; there is an abundance of kindness in this book and it is often directed at strangers … an intelligent and delightful meditation on the joy of books and reading, the importance of art and the wealth of personal strength humans draw on in times of unbearable suffering.'

Sydney Morning Herald

‘… the publication of [Shaffer's] novel … is a subject for rejoicing.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
is an astonishing achievement …'

Australian Women's Weekly

‘Where to start with this truly delightful book? …
is simply one of the most enchanting books I've read … only the hardest of hearts would be left cold by the sublime Miss Juliet Ashton … What makes this book so special is not just the beautiful style of writing, nor even the gripping story and engaging characters but the ability of Shaffer to make this world-weary young woman believe again in honest friendships and great books.'

Courier Mail

The Guernsey
Literary and
Potato Peel Pie




First published in 2008 by The Dial Press in the United States.
First published in Australia and New Zealand by Allen & Unwin in 2008.
First published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury in 2008.

Copyright © Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 2009

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218
[email protected]

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia

ISBN 978 1 74175 895 5

Internal design by Tabitha King and Lisa White
Map by Ian Faulkner
Set in 11.5/15 pt Adobe Garamond Pro by Bookhouse, Sydney
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Lovingly dedicated to my mother,
Edna Fiery Morgan, and to my
dear friend, Julia Poppy
—Mary Ann Shaffer

And to my mother, Cynthia Fiery Barrows
—Annie Barrows

Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
is a first novel from 70-year-old former librarian Mary Ann Shaffer. She first became interested in Guernsey when visiting London in 1976. On a whim, Mary Ann decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there as a heavy fog descended and no boats or planes were permitted to leave the island. While waiting for the fog to clear, Mary Ann came across a book called
Jersey Under the Jack-Boot
, and so her fascination with the Channel Isles began.

Many years later, when goaded by her own book club to write a book, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey. She chose to write an epistolary novel because, ‘for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier that way'. First her family, then her writing group, and then publishers around the world greeted her manuscript with avid enthusiasm, recognising a true gem.

Not long after the sale of her manuscript, Mary Ann's health declined, and her niece Annie Barrows—a successful author in her own right—undertook the edit. Tragically, Mary Ann died early in 2008 without seeing her book in print, but she has left the world an unforgettable legacy—the heartwarming, moving story of
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Part One

Mr Sidney Stark, Publisher
Stephens & Stark Ltd
21 St James's Place
London SW1

8th January 1946

Dear Sidney,

Susan Scott is a wonder. We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food. Susan managed to get hold of ration coupons for icing sugar and
real eggs
for the meringue. If all her literary luncheons are going to achieve these heights, I won't mind touring the country. Do you suppose that a lavish bonus could spur her on to butter? Let's try it—you may deduct the money from my royalties.

Now for my grim news. You asked me how work on my new book is progressing. Sidney, it isn't.
English Foibles
seemed so promising at first. After all, one should be able to write reams about the Society to Protest Against the Glorification of the English Bunny. I unearthed a photograph of the Vermin Exterminators' Trade Union, marching down an Oxford street with placards screaming ‘Down with Beatrix Potter!' But what is there to write about after a caption? Nothing, that's what.

I no longer want to write this book—my head and my heart just aren't in it. Dear as Izzy Bickerstaff is—and was—to me, I don't want to write anything else under that name. I don't want to be considered a light-hearted journalist any more. I do acknowledge that making readers laugh—or at least chuckle—during the war was no mean feat, but I don't want to do it any more. I can't seem to dredge up any sense of proportion or balance these days, and God knows one can't write humour without them.

In the meantime, I am very happy that Stephens & Stark is making money on
Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War
. It relieves my conscience over the debacle of my Anne Brontë biography.

My thanks for everything and love,


P.S. I am reading the collected correspondence of Mrs Montagu. Do you know what that dismal woman wrote to Jane Carlyle? ‘My dear little Jane, everyone is born with a vocation, and yours is to write charming little notes.' I hope Jane spat at her.

From Sidney to Juliet
Miss Juliet Ashton
23 Glebe Place
London SW3

10th January 1946

Dear Juliet,

Congratulations! Susan Scott said you took to the audience at the luncheon like a drunkard to rum—and they to you—so please stop worrying about your tour next week. I have no doubt of your success. Having witnessed your electrifying performance of ‘The Shepherd Boy Sings in the Valley of Humiliation' eighteen years ago, I know you will have every listener coiled around your little finger within moments. A hint: perhaps in this case you should refrain from throwing the book at the audience afterwards.

Susan is looking forward to ushering you through book shops
from Bath to Yorkshire. And of course, Sophie is agitating for an extension of the tour into Scotland. I've told her in my most infuriating older-brother manner that It Remains To Be Seen. She misses you terribly, I know, but Stephens & Stark must be impervious to such considerations.

I've just received
's sales figures from London and the Home Counties—they are excellent. Again, congratulations!

Don't fret about
English Foibles
; better that your enthusiasm should die now than after six months spent writing about bunnies. The crass commercial possibilities of the idea were attractive, but I agree that the topic would soon grow horribly fey. Another subject—one you'll like—will occur to you.

Dinner one evening before you go? Say when.



P.S. You write charming little notes.

From Juliet to Sidney
11th January 1946

BOOK: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
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