The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
|Author||Mary Ann Shaffer
|Cover artist||Christian Raoul Skrein von Bumbala|
|Subject||German occupation of the English Channel Islands|
US author Shaffer planned to write the biography of Kathleen Scott, wife of the English polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott. While researching the subject, she traveled to Cambridge, England, but was discouraged to find that the subject's personal papers were nearly unusable. While dealing with this frustration, she decided to spend some of her planned stay in England by visiting Guernsey in the Channel Islands. However, as soon as she arrived, the airport was shut down due to heavy fog. She spent her visit in the airport's bookstore, reading several histories of the German occupation of those islands during World War II.
It was twenty years before Shaffer began a novel dealing with Guernsey. She had abandoned her plan to write the Scott biography, and said "All I wanted was to write a book that someone would like enough to publish."
After the manuscript had been accepted for publication (2006), the book's editor requested some changes that required substantial rewriting, but around that time Shaffer's health had deteriorated dramatically (she died on 16 February 2008). She asked the daughter of her sister Cynthia, Annie Barrows, who by that time was a well-established author of children's literature, to finish the editing and rewriting. Barrows did so, and thereby became a listed co-author on the work.
The book is an epistolary novel, whose main character is a female newspaper columnist. She receives a letter from a Channel Island man who has acquired a book (Essays of Elia) which contains her name and (previous) London address on the flyleaf. He writes to her, asking for help in finding a biography of English essayist Charles Lamb, and mentions that he is a member of the Island's only book club. Intrigued both by the man's love of Mr Lamb, and by the name of the book club, she enters into a correspondence with the man, which leads to an ever-growing web of letters, then a visit to the island, which ends in a permanent residence there.
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 which 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.
Characters of importance include:
- Juliet Ashton, author and protagonist
- Dawsey Adams, her first Guernsey correspondent and close friend
- Sidney Stark, Juliet's London-based publisher and friend
- Sophie Strachan, Sidney's sister and Juliet's best friend
- Amelia Maugery, Guernsey resident, hostess of the dinner party that started the society
- Eben Ramsey, Guernsey resident, important member of the Society
- Will Thisbee, Guernsey resident, creator of the first potato peel pie
- Isola Pribby, Guernsey resident, quirky society member and vegetable and herb vendor
- Elizabeth McKenna, London-born young lady who was caught on Guernsey at the war's outset. She is the quick-witted founder of the society
- Remy Giraud, a Frenchwoman, friend of Elizabeth in a German concentration camp
- Kit McKenna, Elizabeth's adorable, ferret-loving daughter
Many important themes are referenced throughout the story (the magic of reading, self-discovery, meeting the Other). Some of the most valuable include those of loyalty, courage, and standing strong in the face of danger. Elizabeth is an extreme example of all of those three.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was reviewed by the Washington Post and The Times. It reached the number one position on the New York Times Best Seller List for paperback trade fiction on August 2, 2009; it had been on the list for 11 weeks.
On August 28, 2008, it was announced that Paula Mazur, who produced the film Nim's Island, and Florida bookstore owner Mitchell Kaplan had acquired the film rights to the novel. On August 4, 2011, it was reported that Kenneth Branagh would direct the project with Fox 2000 handling the production and Don Roos writing the script.
Production was due to begin in the spring of 2012 for five weeks. On February 14, 2012, it was announced that the production plans to film in Guernsey had been delayed by casting issues. At the time, Mazur thought the production could then start between the end of May and the beginning of September. However, it was eventually postponed until 2013.
In July 2010, Jason Moriarty, director of marketing and tourism, explained that the production taking place in Guernsey would rely on the economics and logistics of the film. He picked out the fact that the island, being small, doesn't have the capacity necessary to welcome a Hollywood production. Mazur stated that other possible filming locations included the southern part of England. In January 2012 Branagh visited the island to identify some filming locations. Mazur had planned to begin filming in early 2012, but on 20 January she announced that most filming would take place in London, with only a few scenes being shot in Guernsey.
Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt were cited as potential candidates for the final casting. On January 13, 2012, it was revealed Kate Winslet had joined the film. She would have portrayed Juliet Ashton but it was later revealed that she was not involved with the production anymore. Later this year it was announced that the starring role will be played by british actress Michelle Dockery who is mostly known by the public from her portrayal of Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
- "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society » Authors". Randomhouse.com. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- "Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer". Telegraph. 30 August 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- A chief reference was Life in Guernsey Under the Nazis, 1940-45 by Dorothy Pickard Higgs, first published in 1979; see amazon.com.
- Afterword (p. 285) - included in the 2009 paperback edition of TGL&PPPS
- "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Book, 2008)". WorldCat.org. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Aug 3, 2008
- Vine, Sarah. "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer" A perfectly cooked delight: a charming epistolary novel about the wartime German occupation of Guernsey" August 8, 2008.
- Best Sellers The New York Times. Aug 2, 2009.
- Kirschling, Gregory (August 28, 2008). "Suddenly, They've Got a Hot 'Potato'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- Jagernauth, Kevin (August 4, 2011). "Kenneth Branagh To Direct Adaptation Of 'The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society'". IndieWire. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- "Guernsey potato peel filming delayed by casting issues". BBC News. February 14, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- "Guernsey Potato Peel Pie filming delayed until 2013". BBC News. April 2, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- "Can Hollywood come to Guernsey?". BBC. July 22, 2010. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- "Guernsey 'too expensive' for Hollywood film". BBC News. May 6, 2011. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- "Kenneth Branagh looks at film locations in Guernsey". BBC News. January 9, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- "Potato Peel Pie filming in Guernsey depends on funding". BBC News. January 30, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- Orzeck, Kurt (January 13, 2012). "Kate Winslet to Star in Kenneth Branagh's 'Potato Peel Pie'". The Wrap. Reuters. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- "Guernsey film: Kate Winslet and Kenneth Branagh 'not involved'". BBC News. February 8, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2013.