Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What is a Potato Peel Pie?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows deserves every moment that it will spend on the NY Times bestseller list - and then some. It is creative, entertaining and informative. It will warm the hearts of every book lover and book club member. You will laugh, you will cry, you will shudder, you will sigh. Need I say more? I don't know what it would be.

The back story of how this novel came to be written and published is also interesting - and more so for those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area as these are two local authors. The novel was 30 years in the making by Marin resident Mary Ann Shaffer. After the book was picked up at auction by The Dial Press in 2006, Ms. Shaffer became too ill to complete the revisions. So Ms. Shaffer asked her niece, Berkeley resident Annie Barrows (herself a published author) to take on the task. Barrows completed the revisions in December 2007 and was able to show the completed manuscript to her aunt before Shaffer died in February 2008 at age 73. You can read more of the background in the profile published in the SF Chronicle on August 27, 2008.

The entire book is a series of letters written in 1946 to and from Juliet Ashton, a successful London writer looking for her next book project. Her correspondents include her best friend from high school, her publisher, a wealthy suitor and an increasing roster of survivors of the German occupation of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between England and France. It is these latter correspondents who are the members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The letters are full of history and humor and enough literary references for many more months (or years) of reading. Once again we see and feel the transformative power of books and reading.

So go do something that you have been dreading or putting off (cleaning, taxes, organizing...) and then reward yourself with this book. You won't be disappointed!

Author reading: Saturday Sept. 6, 7:30 pm, San Anselmo Library

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