Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This book is composed entirely of letters, telegrams, and journal entries written by its characters. Through these lively communications (“That was when Juliet threw the teapot”) you learn how a group of sturdy independent souls weathered the Nazi occupation of their island, with little more than literature and community to sustain them.

But the story has less to do with war than with ingenuity, solidarity, and Charles Lamb. The society in question was invented by a nimble-witted resident as cover for an illicit gathering (to eat the remains of an undocumented pig), but turns into a real organization. The image of two crusty farmers nearly coming to blows over their views on Marcus Aurelius is one to cherish.

The game of Dead Bride, the favorite pastime of four-year-old Kit, will strike a chord with anyone who had a bloodthirsty childhood (which apparently is most of us). “The bride veils herself in a lace curtain and stuffs herself into the laundry hamper, where she lies as though dead while the anguished bridegroom hunts for her. When he finally discovers her entombed in the laundry hamper, he breaks into loud wails. Then and only then does the bride jump up, yell ‘Surprise!’ and clutch him to her,” writes Juliet, the central character, to her publisher. “Privately, I don’t give that marriage much of a chance.”

For wildflowers, wide vistas, and a cameo by Oscar Wilde, catch the next mail boat to Guernsey.

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