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

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was highly recommended to me by several readers. I love history and was surprised to find the story had a very creative way of describing the occupation of Guernsey island in the English Channel during WWII. The characters were drawn together by their love of books, and the resilience of the survivors shines through their personal letters that deliver this story. Here are my favorite quotes!


Arrayed in her finest frock and spotless white gloves, the girl made her way to the school, stepped over the threshold, took one look at the sea of shining cadet faces before her—and fainted dead away! The poor child had never seen so many males in one place in her life. Think of it—a whole generation grown up without dances or teas or flirting.


Apropos of my new dress and no new shoes—doesn’t it seem shocking to have more stringent rationing after the war than during the war? I realize that hundreds of thousands of people all over Europe must be fed, housed, and clothed, but privately I resent it that so many of them are Germans.


Friends tell me that Europe is like a hive broken open, teeming with thousands upon thousands of displaced people, all trying to get home.


My worries travel about my head on their well-worn path, and it is a relief to put them on paper.


I argue myself all the way to one end of the question and back again several times a day.


I have been reading an article by a woman named Giselle Pelletier, a political prisoner held at Ravensbrück for five years. She writes about how difficult it is for you to get on with your life as a camp survivor. No one in France—not friends, not family—wants to know anything about your life in the camps, and they think that the sooner you put it out of your mind—and out of their hearing—the happier you’ll be. According to Miss Pelletier, it is not that you want to belabor anyone with details, but it did happen to you and you cannot pretend it didn’t. “Let’s put everything behind us” seems to be France’s cry. “Everything—the war, the Vichy, the Milice, Drancy, the Jews—it’s all over now. After all, everyone suffered, not just you.” In the face of this institutional amnesia, she writes, the only help is talking with fellow survivors. They know what life in the camps was. You speak, and they can speak back. They talk, they rail, they cry, they tell one story after another—some tragic, some absurd. Sometimes they can even laugh together. The relief is enormous, she says.


I hope, too, that my book will illuminate my belief that love of art—be it poetry, storytelling, painting, sculpture, or music—enables people to transcend any barrier man has yet devised.


As the members of the Literary Society found during their ordeal, companionship can help us surmount nearly any barrier, imposed, self-imposed, or imagined.