The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Essay - Critical Essays

Mary Ann Shaffer

Literary Criticism and Significance

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was named one of the best books of 2008 by several publications, including theWashington Post. The novel’s best-selling status in the United States has led to its translation and popularity in other countries as well. Soon after the paperback edition came out in 2009, there were more than a million copies in print.

Author Mary Ann Shaffer would never learn how successful her first and only novel would become because she died in early 2008 before her book was published. In her absence, Shaffer’s niece, Annie Barrows, applied the finishing touches for this novel and has overseen the book’s promotion. Also helping with the promotion are positive reviews from United States and United Kingdom critics. For example, Candace Smith, writing for Booklist, found that the format that Shaffer used to tell this story—a collection of letters from the protagonist to the various characters in the novel—was “by turns heartbreaking and inspiring, prompting both tears and chuckles.” Other reviewers were caught off guard by the depth of Shaffer’s novel. An anonymous critic, writing forKirkus Reviews, described The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as what was first thought to be “cozy” fiction that suddenly turned out to become much “more serious.”

Shaffer was encouraged by her family and members of her writers’ group to tackle this project after she became fascinated with the island of Guernsey during a short visit. She researched the topic of the German occupation of this channel island and took several years to create the long list of characters and the central themes. The product of those efforts, according to Susan Clifford Braun, writing for the Library Journal, was a full success. Braun dubbed the debut novel as “marvelous.” Harry Ritchie, writing for London’s Daily Mail, had the same reaction. Ritchie added that the book was not only marvelous but also both very “funny and moving.”