The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

st-peter-port-high-st

Back in the early 1970s my imagination was captured by the TV series A Family at War.  This, I believe, set the tone for a genre of novels which became a great favourite – wartime sagas.

In a list of my favourite places to visit, somewhere near the top would be St. Peter Port in Guernsey. Its pretty quaintness belies the awful history of this small island. Following the series Island at War in 2004, my interest became focused on wartime Guernsey. I am, therefore, delighted to read that a film is to be made of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Burrows.

Potato peel pie

Of course, reading tastes differ but I reckon that if you’ve not read the book, you are missing a treat. With Guernsey under German Occupation, a local woman created the society as a cover for the breaking of the curfew, and to hide the fact that islanders had, broken the strictly enforced rule that they must not eat their own livestock.  If you have read the book and enjoyed it, try Margaret Leroy’s novel, The Collaborator (also available under the title The Soldier’s Wife) ….another excellent glimpse into life under the terrifying conditions of The Occupation).

A while ago I came across a fascinating article related to the Occupation. Starved, beaten and under threat of execution the inhabitants of Jersey and Guernsey were determined to defy the enemy with small acts of resistance.  The personal testimonies of some of those who suffered at the hands of the Gestapo were made public (c2010) after languishing in a wardrobe in Guernsey for the past five decades, the contents dispelling accusations that some islanders collaborated too easily with the enemy.

Islander Frank Falla collected the statements in the 1960s after the British Government, having received compensation from Germany, paid up to £1,000 each to Channel Island inhabitants who had been injured by the Germans. Falla believed that those involved in the resistance should be similarly recognised. He himself had been deported to Frankfurt for his involvement in “The Guernsey Underground News Service”, a clandestine wartime newspaper on which islanders relied to know what was happening.   One of those imprisoned, Walther Henri Laine, describes a complete absence of human rights as islanders were subject to the most appalling treatment, being starved and, at the slightest provocation, beaten. They were also denied medical treatment, letters or parcels.

The Channel Islands were occupied from 1940 to 1945, the only part of the British Isles to fall under enemy control. At an astonishing ratio of one soldier to three civilians it was more heavily guarded than any of the other occupied territories. The resistance movement was less organised than other countries but Islanders were involved in defiance and protest wherever possible.

Falla’s collection of testimonies meant that the world was able, at last, to understand the terrifying conditions under which Channel Island inhabitants lived during Occupation and recognise the immense bravery of those who carried out the ‘small acts of resistance’.

Any recommendations for other novels set in Guernsey during The Occupation are very welcome.

10 thoughts on “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    1. Special indeed! I want to go back too. It’s a very genteel place – hard to define but it just is! I’ve been three times and love it there.

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  1. I bought this book when it was first published (so sad the writer died soon after she wrote it) and I absolutely loved it! A really wonderful novel which should make a really good film. I also remember the series, A Family at War.
    Margaret P

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    1. I don’t think she ever got to know how successful it was – such a shame. Apparently four of the actors in the forthcoming
      film are from the Downton Abbey cast. I almost never go to the cinema but think I will be making an exception!

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      1. While there is a multiplex cinema (a Vue Cinema) in the town, if we go – which is a rare occurrence because we don’t like the volume of the soundtrack in cinemas today – we go to the Barn Theatre at Dartington, Totnes, a British Film Institute cinema. It really is a cinema in a medieval barn but the seats are comfortable. No popcorn, just a very good cinema.
        Margaret P

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        1. We have a multiplex in town too, but the Arts centre about six miles away has a film screen which they just pull down over the stage. It’s much nicer – small and comfortable. There is also a restored Art Deco cinema in Evesham, a few miles away, which has little tables and comfortable chairs and you can have a glass of wine whilst you watch the film.The last film I watched at the cinema was The King’s Speech – my visits are few and far between.

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  2. I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Eloise. Such a good book. Although I live in the US, I am very interested in British WW2 fiction. Will make note of Leroy’s novel. I just read The English Air by DE Stevenson which takes place from 1938 to early 1940. I enjoyed it. I’m also enjoying your blog! (I’m 64.) Many blessings, Bess

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    1. Hi Bess, I love the fact that you have found me all the way from the US. Whereabouts? I am so glad that you’re enjoying my blog.
      It’s great that you are interested in British war fiction. I am currently about three quarters of the way through writing a novel about British Army personnel which is set during The Korean War 1952-4. Slow going though! I will look out for the book you mention. Another WWII book that I really liked is ‘Under an English Heaven’ by Robert Ratcliffe.

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      1. I’m in Kansas, where we have been dodging tornadoes this week. Thanks for the book suggestion. Best wishes for completing your novel! It sounds interesting. I have a memoir on Amazon, and am working on inputting and updating a simple romance I wrote over 30 years ago. I don’t really care for it, but I may put it on Amazon someday anyway! :O) I love self-publishing via Amazon; it levels the playing field for those of us who couldn’t get an agent if our lives depended upon it! Have a great weekend! B

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