There may be more indigestible dishes than potato peel pie.
But, offhand, it’s hard to think what they might be.
And, it is, perhaps, telling that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows doesn’t actually include a pie recipe.
But it doesn’t need one: this is a gourmet book about an extraordinary group of people surviving – just about – the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.
The story opens in 1946 – author Juliet Ashton, who made her name writing morale-boosting magazine columns, is struggling to find a new subject.
A chance letter from Guernsey pig farmer Dawsey Adams, who has found Juliet’s name and address in a second-hand book, sparks her interest and, spurred on by a mutual love of reading, they begin to correspond.
When Dawsey reveals he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before Juliet begins to hear from other members.
As letters fly back and forth, she learns more about the resourceful Elizabeth McKenna, who invented the society when she and other islanders were caught out after curfew.
A novel in letters about books, publishers, authors and readers is a difficult trick to pull off.
But Schaffer, a former librarian, writes with wit and warmth and, though Elizabeth’s story is at times unbearably heart-breaking, the growing friendship between vivacious Juliet and the shy farmer provides a heart-warming counterpoint.
Sadly, Schaffer died before the final edits were complete, leaving her niece to finish the book.
But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a wonderful testament: a delightful, magical, tragic-comic novel.
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Available to buy on Amazon.