Letters and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


October 26, 2013 by Vicki

Cover of "The Guernsey Literary and Potat...

Cover via Amazon

Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will make you laugh, cry, fume, and cheer. You may forget that these are fictional characters.You will wish that you had these characters for neighbours. The novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, filled my mind and heart with these wonderful characters. The main protagonist, Juliet, is a writer who becomes fascinated by the people of Guernsey and eventually finds a new home within their community. Another character, Sidney, Juliet’s publisher and knight in shining armour who has protected her since she and his sister were schoolgirls. Every character in this novel is fully developed and fits into the landscape of the novel as a puzzle piece fits perfectly within its puzzle.

A Guernsey Cow

A Guernsey Cow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as a series of letters written in the period just after World War Two. Characters introduce themselves through both letters and cables. Through these letters, the reader learns about the character not just by what they say but also by the words they chose to use and their greetings to the recipient of the letter. In the first letter of the novel, Juliet begins the letter complimenting Susan Scott and giving a rapturous description of food. Her choice of introduction tells the reader that she has a close connection to the recipient of the letter that is much more than professional. It also tells the reader a little bit about Juliet herself; namely, that she is quick to praise others and has a light-hearted spirit. These letters move the plot of the novel along and provide stimulus for action within the novel itself. For instance, Juliet plans to use the letters as the basis for her own novel about the occupation of Guernsey. Through them, Juliet meets and falls in love with the people involved in the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Eventually, she decides she must visit them and in going to Guernsey, finds a home she had long been missing.

Picture of a Guernsey Post post box, in St Pet...

Picture of a Guernsey Post post box, in St Peter Port, Guernsey. Photo taken by me 2003-09-23. Category:Images of Guernsey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In reading this novel, I have to wonder about the disappearance of the letter and how this will impact future generations. I have always enjoyed novels written through letters. It lends a sense of the intimate to the reading of the story. I do not think that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society would have had the same impact if it had been written in any other way. What will happen now that people generally do not write letters? Could we have a novel based on a series of e-mails? I don’t believe it would be possible. For one thing, most people delete their e-mails shortly after reading them. Why would this particular character or collection of characters hold onto these e-mails? More importantly, however, is that e-mails tend to be short and direct. We know the person receiving the e-mail will respond, possibly in a just a few short minutes. When writing letters, in contrast, it could be months before the recipient would even receive the letter. Thus, letters would include a great deal more information and detail then our common e-mail. The disappearance of the letter saddens me. I remember when receiving a letter as a child, it would be just like receiving a present. I would be so excited and the whole preparation for sending a letter in return would fascinate me. Perhaps there is still room for the letter in the modern age? I know I would still be delighted if someone wrote me a letter. In fact, I cherish a letter a friend of mine wrote recently. What do you think are letters outdated or is there still a place for this form of communication?

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