The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Book Discussion and Recipe
Juliet wrote humorous articles for the papers during WWII in London, but had very little personal involvement with Nazis and no idea of the consequences of their daily presence and stringent rules. Juliet was, however, forced to sell one of her own beloved books, which luckily found its way into the hands of a Guernsey man. After the German occupation of his island, Dawsey wrote her a letter, asking for more books and any news of London or the outside world. Soon he and all the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society would be serendipitously sending letters to Juliet, since she would love to write a book but is fresh out of ideas. The stories she receives are heartbreaking, hilarious, and a beautiful insight into an unknown world, where things far worse than mere food rations occurred, wine was smuggled, a dead pig was passed around, and even enemies helped each other carry water barrels and shared books. is a small island of hope, a place that proves that even the oddest and most contentious characters can bond through literature and shared hardships. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Even though in London Juliet had to deal with blackout curtains, and more stringent rationing after the war than during the war, how much worse was it on the island of Guernsey?
Why does Juliet think it’s wise to not trust a publisher’s blurb about a book, and to instead ask the book clerk 3 questions, 1) What is it about? 2) Have you read it? 3) Is it any good? Why might that approach not work in big retail bookshops?
Why was boxing up her books for the basement in favor of showcasing his trophies the straw that broke Juliet’s back, and ended her relationship with Rob? What would have become of her books if they had gone into the basement and why?
Why did Juliet ask for character references from both an old friend and a woman who despised her? How did the second person’s letter add to the humor of this novel?
How did potato peel pie come about and of what does it consist?
Why does Isola believe that “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books”? Do you agree, have any good books ruined a lesser one for you that you read next?
What is the story behind Elizabeth McKenna and her disappearance? Who is taking care of her child? Why does Adelaide despise Elizabeth so much?
What happened to most of the trees in Guernsey and why? What happened to the pets who were left behind, and how many days did it take?
Who is Kit’s father? What happened to him?
It’s easy to see the monstrous side of the German soldiers and to despise all of them as cruel and inhumane, but what contradictory to this mentality things did they do? (Hint: the Luftwaffe in the beauty parlor, Christian with Dawsey and the barrels)
How did John Booker pull off being mistaken for Lord Tobia Penn-Piers and how did Elizabeth and a portrait help?
How did Charles Lamb enable Dawsey to make friends with both Christian and Juliet? What is it about some books that bonds us?
Amelia told Juliet that when her son died, and people told her that life goes on, she disagreed; death goes on. Why did she think they were wrong, and what did they mean by that? Amelia also believed that it would take time for the sorrow to recede, but even still, there were small islands of hope—was she speaking metaphorically, or is Guernsey that place? Who else replaced sorrow with hope and how did they do it?
What was Amelia’s “most hateful story of the war” about the Todt workers and “Death by Exhaustion”? How did Elizabeth and Peter later play into this story?
What was the great tragedy about Charles Lamb and his sister, Mary, and why did he choose to “take care of her for the rest of her life”?
Isola asked Juliet: “Do you live by the river? I hope so, because people who live near running water are much nicer than people who don’t.” Is living by water or the ocean perhaps part of what makes most Guernsey people so kind and affable? What is the science behind this phenomenon of being near running water, such as waterfalls or the ocean, that soothes people?
How did Juliet and Sophie become friends (despite her initial resistance), and how did it involve a railway timetable?
Why was it “a terrible thing to decide—send your kiddies away to live among strangers, or let them stay with you? What were the advantages and disadvantages to each? Who chose to keep their children, and who sent them away?
Why did Elizabeth slap Adelaide Addison?
What things did John Booker think about to get him through his time in Neuengamme, and what things were too painful to think on? Why were the happiest things, the things he loved, the hardest to think about, but not the things he merely liked?
How were Dawsey and Mark different, especially in the way they handled Juliet, and Kit?
What happened to Elizabeth and Remy in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp? Is Elizabeth a hero?
Isola had eight letters by what famous author in a cookie tin in her home? How did her Granny Pheen acquire such letters? What did Billee Bee try to do with them?
Why didn’t anyone in France want to know anything or talk about the concentration camps? How does talking with fellow survivors help some people? Why doesn’t talking with others who’ve suffered the same tragedy always help everyone?
Amelia’s raspberries had “come in with a vengeance” and she invited Kit and Juliet over for tea and pie. Juliet gobbled raspberry pie at Amelia’s home to celebrate a certain “disgraceful” victory...Below is a simple recipe for Raspberry Mini Pie Bites.
Raspberry Mini Pie Bites
- (8 oz) 1 cup fresh raspberries
- 3 tbsp raspberry jam
- 6 tbsp cold butter
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar, divided into 1 and 2
- 1/3 cup ice water
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp room temperature water
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour with one tablespoon of sugar. Place the butter on top and use a pastry cutter to mix the butter in until it resembles small crumbs. Then add the ice water, drizzling in a couple tablespoons at a time, and fold the water into the flour mix by hand. You may need a bit more or less water than listed depending on humidity (you want just enough water for all the flour in the dough to come together, but not to be soggy). Make sure the water you add is icy cold. When the flour is fully combined into a dough, roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- In a small sauce pot on medium-high heat, cook 6 oz raspberries, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the raspberry jam for 3-4 minutes until the raspberries fall apart and the mixture is boiling. Boil for one minute. In a separate, tiny bowl, combine the cornstarch and room temperature water into a slurry. Pour this into the pot of raspberries, stir, and continue to boil for one more minute. Allow to cool ten to fifteen minutes at least before using.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Spray a mini cupcake tin liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Roll out the dough onto a heavily floured flat surface (I used 3/4 cup) to about 1/16 inch thick or the height of a thin cookie (see picture below). Cut the dough into small circles just slightly larger than the holes of the tin, using a small cup. Then place each round in each hole of the tin and press down gently, floured side down.
- Repeat the rolling and cutting out process until the dough is all used up. Fill each pressed dough round with about a teaspoon of raspberry filling. Don’t fill them above the line of the tin or they will boil over. Bake for 20 minutes, then allow to cool 5-10 minutes before devouring. Top with a little whipped cream if you’d like. Makes 14 pie bites.
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Raspberry Mini Pie Bites
Books mentioned within this book are the Selected Essays of Elia, More Essays of Elia, and Selected Letters by Charles Lamb, Wuthering Heights, The Pickwick Papers, Ill-Used by Candlelight, Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, Shirley, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle, The Secret Garden, The Canterbury Tales and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books.
The authors mentioned are the Bronte sisters, Wilkie Collins, Shakespeare, Catullus, Wilfred Owen, Wordsworth, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Coleridge, Victor Hugo, and Jane Austen.
Other books that contain book clubs and a cast of eccentric, lovable characters are The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler, The Accidental Book Club by Jennifer Scott, and The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson.
Books about WWII and specifically the challenges of the occupation are The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, and Those Who Save Us by Jenna Bloom.
“I can’t seem to dredge up any sense of proportion or balance these days, and God knows one cannot write humor without it.”
“I’m so gloomy-- gloomier than I ever was during the war. Everything is so broken...the roads, the buildings, the people. Especially the people.”
“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you to a third book… all with no end in sight, and for no reason other than sheer enjoyment.”
“I know that I am fortunate to have any place at all to live in London, but I much prefer whining to counting my blessings.”
“Humor is the best way to make the unbearable bearable.”
“Booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary...so it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it—along with first dibs on the new books.”
“So many people who wander into bookshops don’t really know what they’re after—they only want to look around and hope to see a book that will strike their fancy.”
“Dawsey has a rare gift for persuasion—he never asks for anything for himself, so everyone is eager to do what he asks for others.”
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”
“I figure hunger makes you desperate when you wake to it every morning.”
“Women like poetry. A soft word in their ears and they melt—a grease spot on the grass.”
“The first rule of snooping is to come at it sideways—when you began writing me dizzy letters about Alexander, I didn’t ask if you were in love with him, I asked what his favorite animal was. And your answer told me everything I needed to know about him.”
“When my son died...visitors offering their condolences ...said ‘Life goes on.’ What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn’t. It’s death that goes on. Ian is dead now...there’s no end to that. But perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it. Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take time to recede. But already, there are small islands of—hope? Happiness? Something like them, at any rate.”
“A mind that can make friends of anything—I thought of that often during the war.”
“Do you live by the river? I hope so, because people who live near running water are much nicer than people who don’t. I’d be mean as a scorpion if I lived inland.”
“Naturally curly hair is a curse, and don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”
“My worries travel about my head on their well-worn path, and it is a relief to put them on paper.”
“I never met a man half so true as a dog. Treat a dog right and he’ll treat you right—he’ll keep you company, be your friend, never ask you no questions.”
“Dawsey says the least, but he takes me to see wonders...then he stands back and lets me enjoy them as long as I want. He’s the most unhurrying person I’ve ever met.”
“I felt as if she had given me a gift—even such a tiny gesture as a touch takes trust—and I was glad she felt safe with me.”
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© 2018 Amanda Leitch