Book Chatter: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


I don’t have enough time to do this book justice, but since that won’t change anytime soon, I’ll just have to share it with y’all in the small space I do have today.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of those books that I kept seeing everywhere, and every time I saw it, its title leapt out at me and pestered me with its originality until I finally took the book home out of sheer annoyance.


Result #2 on Pixabay for “annoy”. Tyrolean cows will have none of your nonsense.

But when I opened it up and began to read, my impatience vanished in an instant. TGLAPPPS is a charming, funny, poignant epistolary novel, a genre I’d never encountered before. The authors, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, switch narrators often enough to stave off monotony, and in any case, every single narrator is so vivid, so fresh, and so engaging that it’s a delight to listening to whoever’s speaking at the moment.

The story opens in London in 1946, where 33-year-old Juliet Ashton is enjoying modest fame as a new writer in the first days of rebuilding after the war. One day she receives a letter from a man she’s never met, on an island she’s never visited — Guernsey, one of the British-held Channel Islands between Britain and France. The man’s letter is short and professional, asking for Juliet’s help in locating a book, but Juliet is intrigued by the small details he’s revealed about life on Guernsey, which the Germans had occupied during the war. Her correspondence blossoms into a network of acquaintances on the island, until finally Juliet realizes that she must visit Guernsey and meet these people for herself. What she finds there might very well change her life.

Rich with historical detail, TGLAPPPS unfurls its plot in a setting rarely visited. If you’re looking for high-quality historical fiction, light reading for the train, your next book club pick, or just an all-around great story, TGLAPPPS is the book to choose.


Photo credits: Book cover from Better World Books; cows from flyupmike on Pixabay.



Book Chatter: The Girls of Atomic City


I’m a terrible American.

There’s barely enough room in my brain’s National Anthems Memory Center for one verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, but I’ve somehow managed to squeeze in one verse of “God Save the Queen”, two verses of “Advance Australia Fair”, and two half-verses of “Mazurek Dąbrowskiego”, plus all appropriate choruses. 

Moreover, while I can name all the monarchs of England since William the Conqueror (handily set to the tune of “Good King Wenceslas”), ask me for the fourth American president and I’m stuck.

Finally, and perhaps most tragically this week, I don’t actually know what July 4 commemorates.

Hang on, let me check.

You're welcome.

Click for the link. (You’re welcome.)

Okay, here we go. July 4 is the anniversary of:

  • the Battle of Mantinea, marking the Thebans’ defeat of the Spartans (362 B.C.)
  • Saladin’s defeat of Guy of Lusignan (1187)
  • the birth of shogun Ashikaga Yoshiakira (1330)
  • the founding of Trois-Rivières, Québec (1634)
  • the Second Continental Congress adopting the Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  • President Johnson signing the Freedom of Information Act into law (1966)

Clearly an important day for many. But all patriotic shortcomings aside, I do think today’s Book Chatter selection represents a piece of American history that everyone should know about: World War II and the dawn of the Atomic Era.

In The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan tells the story of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a city that sprang up virtually overnight to aid the Manhattan Project. With a large portion of America’s men away at war, many of the jobs at the Oak Ridge facility fell to women, giving them a position of career growth and financial stability that they might not otherwise had had. If you’re interested in atomic history, WWII history, women’s history, or even urban planning, The Girls of Atomic City is definitely the perfect book for you over this long weekend … no matter whether you’re celebrating the Declaration of Independence or the Battle of Mantinea.

What’s your favorite American history book? Is there a particular era you like to focus on?