*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas, and discussion questions in that order!
Have you ever read an epistolary novel? Epistolary novels are stories told entirely through a series of letters. The form originated in 1740 when Samuel Richardson revolutionized story telling with Pamela.
Other novels follow a similar format and use journal entries or other forms of correspondence to tell the story, but the use of letters alone is unusual these days.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel in its truest form. Told through letters between, not just two or three, but at least a dozen correspondents, it is truly a fascinating work.
I’m amazed that Shaffer and Barrows were able to include so many voices and still create a seamless story. The cast of characters is what really makes the novel an unforgettable and thoroughly enjoyable work.
The novel’s central character is a young writer, Juliet Ashton, who is searching for her next story in post-WWII England. When she receives a letter from the isolated island of Guernsey asking her to send a book, that simple request changes the course of her life and ultimately brings her to the island. There she finds a group of diverse literary lovers and the community she’s always longed for.
If you’ve seen the Netflix film, but haven’t read the book. I encourage you to read it. It’s different enough from the film to keep you turning pages, but you’ll find the same charm as the movie.
And, if you haven’t seen the movie, perhaps you can watch it as a book club and compare! While the movie is slightly different than the book, I feel like it’s one that did a pretty good job of capturing the essence of the novel.
If you’ve already read and loved the novel, but you’re looking for a book like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, check out The Jane Austen Society. The Jane Austen Society has a very similar feel. Post WWII England, small villagers rallying for a cause, literary influences, etc.
I’ve provided book club questions and delicious food ideas for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, so if you are looking for book club ideas and more, keep reading!
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Here’s a brief summary of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:
From the Publisher: “January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. . . .
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.”
For The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Food Ideas:
While many book clubs immediately think of the Potato Peel Pie as the food for this novel, there are quite a few other options as well.
Here are a few of the food ideas from the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:
- Roast Pig with onions and potatoes – Mrs. Maugery’s hidden pig, a rare treat and the reason the society formed
- Potato Peel Pie – mashed potato filling, strained beet sweeteners, and potato peeling crust (concoction of Will Thisbee for the first official meeting)
- Clara Saussey reads her recipe book – five-layer cakes, chocolate-rum balls, sponge cake with pots of cream – and is asked to leave
- Chicken and spinach dinner – Juliet arrives and eats dinner with Ameila, Kit and Dawsey
- Raspberry pie – Amelia and Kit make pie and Juliet gobbles it up after Mark leaves
- Sorrel soup – Dawsey makes Juliet dinner
Juliet also mentions Lord Woolton in one of her letters. In WWII, he was the Minister of Food. He came up with the famous Lord Woolton Pie, which I featured HERE. It would be a great era-appropriate option for your book club meeting!
While I know some other blogs have tried to recreate the Potato Peel Pie, I think the best option would be to buy or make a sweet potato pie. Believe me, your book club will be glad to have an edible pie over an inedible one!
Whether you choose something from this list or try your own option, I hope these food ideas will get your creative juices flowing to host your book club for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society!
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- Each of the members connects with a particular author: John Booker with Seneca, Dawsey with Charles Lamb, Eben with Shakespeare, Isola with the Bronte sisters, and etc. What author has shaped your life more than any other author? Why do you connect deeply with their writing?
- Guernsey, an island off of the English coast, was occupied during WWII. Because it is an island and it was occupied (unlike England), it faced unique challenges. Which of the challenges discussed in the book most surprised you (lack of information, food shortages, German soldiers, Todt workers, etc.)?
- Towards the end of the book, Juliet realizes that Elizabeth is the thread that links all of the stories together. Elizabeth continually stands up in the face of evil. What did you think of her last act of defiance? Was she foolish or brave?
- Dawsey and the other members of the Society see Christian as the person he is rather than the uniform he wears. Why do you think that they were able to accept him (and others, like the Todt workers), but other residents were not?
- Eli and Kit both lose their mothers during the war. Discuss their experiences. Do you think being sent away or being left behind would have been harder?
- In many ways Mark and Juliet are similar and in many ways Dawsey and Juliet are similar. Why do you think that Juliet comes to see Dawsey as the better choice for her? Do you agree? What stands out about Dawsey to you?
- This book is different than many other WWII novels. How do you think that seeing the characters unite through a common and ordinary experience, like a book club, highlighted the war experience in ways other novels haven’t?
- We learn about Charles Lamb and his difficult life in the novel. Why do you think Dawsey connected with Charles Lamb’s writings? Do you know any other facts about Charles or Mary Lamb that you’d like to share with the group?
- Did you enjoy the epistolary format of the novel? How might the novel have been different in a traditional format? Would you have liked it more or less? What other epistolary novels have you read and enjoyed?
- In the society, each member was invited to read from a work, lecture on the work/author, and then discuss with the group. Have you considered trying a reading group format rather than a book club format with your group? How might it change the dynamic in a positive way? What are the draw backs?
Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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