Monday, October 18, 2010


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


"Be Satisfied With What You Already Have." -- Chinese Fortune Cookie

It's easy to forget just how lucky we are.  We have so much that we take for granted.  I sometimes get caught up in minute details that seem so important, though later it seems silly that I even cared.  Did I really need to have a Carolina Herrara wedding dress?  Was it really that important?  (Ok, well, that's a bad example because that really was a great dress...)  The point is, I often forget how truly blessed I am and how fortunate I am to have a home, a wonderful husband, the bestest dog in the world, and family and friends whom I love.  Not everyone is so lucky.

The characters in the wonderful novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society have far less than I.  Guernsey,  a small British island dividing the channel between France and England, was occupied by the Germans during WWII. The book brings us the stories of residents of both London and Guernsey in the aftermath of the war.  

What makes the novel so delightful is the style in which it was written.  Rather than prose, the book is a series of letters written between the characters.  It's such a personal way to tell a story; we learn about each character in an intimate setting, in their own words, and in their own voice.  These letters remove the facade that can sometimes accompany stories told in the third person.  We're offered many perspectives with one common thread-- we, as the reader, are invited to be a part of personal conversations that we'd normally never hear.  As a result, we're involved in the story.  We begin to look forward to the next letter almost as much as the characters seem to.

I won't give away details of the story, but I will reveal a bit about the book's title.  The Germans instituted a nightly curfew for island residents during the war.  A group of residents was caught out past curfew and stated that they were part of the Guernsey Literary Society.  To prove that such a group existed, the residents held another meeting and invited the Germans along.  As a desert, Potato Peel Pie was served.

I'll admit, I was leery of reading the book because it had such a strange title and I was initially off-put by the letters.  But, the Guernsey residents taught me something about the values of life.  They showed me that it is possible to be satisfied in the face of monotony, rations and occupations.  They showed me that life isn't about who has the latest Iphone or big tv, but rather about making the most of what you already have.  I learned that creativity goes a long way-- it turns mundane potato skins into pie.  And, most of all, I learned that nothing is more important than friendship.  

When I think about the Guernsey residents from WWII, I think first about the occupation and the hardships.  I think "there but for the grace of God go I."  But, the truth is, even with all their hardships, it's clear that they were blessed.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you included this "Be Satisfied With What You Already Have." -- Chinese Fortune Cookie
    There is so much wisdom in that. Beautiful post!