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

Aw, this book was so sweet.  I feel like I’ve been hearing about it everywhere I turn, but I think initially I read about it on Caribousmom – apparently ages and ages ago, as she reviewed it in July.  My mother owns a copy, and I borrowed it from her and lost it, so I was in a panic about where it could be, and then the other night I was at home and I saw it on her bookshelf.  Apparently I brought it over to my parents’ house to read and then left it there.  I’m such a spaz.

Well, this book was really very, very sweet.  It’s all about post-WWII England, specifically the Channel Islands, specifically the Channel Island of Guernsey.  Writer Juliet Ashton becomes interested Guernsey’s occupation by the Germans during the war, and decides to write a book about the people there.  The book is such a dear, nice book, with all these excellent anecdotes in it.  I love anecdotes from Back In The Day.  I love reading about the brave, brave, brave British during World War II.  I love epistolary novels.  There is no bad here.  I wish the author, Mary Ann Shaffer, had lived longer so I could have read interviews with her in which she could have said where she got all these anecdotes from.  Because I am interested.

So yeah, you should read this book.  It’s nice.  Not unflawed, but really such a nice book, it’s well worth reading.

I just had – I mean – well, okay.  You know how I said it was unflawed, and then I didn’t say what any of the flaws were?  That’s deliberate, because the flaws, you know, they were few and not distressing, and it was such a nice, nice, sweet, pleasant book that I didn’t want to mention them.  But I just have to say that the whole Oscar Wilde thing – well.  I mean, I’m thrilled, of course, for it to be more widely known that Oscar Wilde’s full name was Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.  Insofar as that goes, I’m enchanted to have the subject brought up.  Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.

The only thing is that – minor spoilers here, I guess? – the only thing is that those letters that they have that are written by Oscar Wilde, they’re supposed to be from 1893.  Ninety-three.  The man would not have signed a letter O.F.O’F.W.W.  Not in 1893.  He didn’t do that anymore.  It was a whole thing – he said he was born with five names and he had shed all but two, and he wanted to someday be just known by one of them.  (Darling Oscar Wilde.  His 108th anniversary of death is approaching.)  I’m not saying it’s beyond the realm of possibility that in 1893 he would have signed a letter that way, but he had stopped doing that absolutely by the time he married Constance (before that actually, but this works as a benchmark), and that was, what, nine years? before these 1893 letters were supposed to have been written.  And I mean, yes, fine, that doesn’t by itself make it impossible that the letters would have been genuine, but you’d think somebody would have said, Hm, this is curious.  I certainly thought it was curious, a word I here use to mean TOTALLY IMPLAUSIBLE.

I have now officially said more about the implausibility of the date of some letters that aren’t even a major plot point, than about the book itself.  But I can’t help it!  It bothered me so much!  After I finished the book I went upstairs and fetched my Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde – yes, I own one – and looked at the signatures on every letter from 1893, just to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  (I wasn’t wrong.)

  • I keep seeing the buzz about this book everywhere, and my library doesn’t have a copy (booo!), so I keep forgetting to get hold of it. I see an interlibrary loan in my future.

  • jennysbooks

    Definitely do it! The Oscar Wilde story is rather charming actually. If I weren’t an Oscar Wilde nerd there would have been nothing about this book that bothered me enough to be worth remarking. 🙂

  • I finally read this today, and when I finished I had to come over here to see if you’d reviewed it. I was sure you’d have informative thoughts on the plausibility of the whole Oscar Wilde thing if so 😛 But yeah, the book was incredibly sweet, and I’ll happily go back to suspending my disbelief now.