Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Potato Peel Something-Or-Other

on September 30, 2011
In Guernsey, 4 July 2010

Image via Wikipedia

Last spring, I was sitting in a restaurant with my fellow book club members. We had just finished our discussion about a book that wasn’t that big of a hit with the group. It was May, so we started discussing which books we wanted to read for the summer months. One of the women suggested “Potato Peel Something-or-other.” We immediately pulled out our smart phones, looked it up on Amazon.com, read the description, and decided to slate it for later that summer. It eventually got delayed until October, but I read it when I still had time before school started.

My first impression of the book was that I was not going to enjoy it. I am not usually a fan of books that use the convention of letter or journal writing to tell the story. I had a really hard time with Dracula by Bram Stoker because at least the first part is all journal entries. I also had a hard time connecting to Juliet, the main letter writer and character that brings the story together, because I couldn’t relate to her. She was a professional writer who had great success writing humorous articles regarding WWII and during that war, she lost her home in the bombing. While that was interesting, it wasn’t enough to carry a story.

Fortunately, the book takes a big turn when a seemingly random man writes to Juliet when he receives a used book that has her address written inside the cover. This starts a conversation between the writer and the man who lives on a English Channel Island called Guernsey. I’ll admit that I was totally ignorant of the geography of the English Channel, but I immediately went over to Google Maps and started exploring. (If you want to see where it is, go here!) This little island had been greatly affected by WWII when the Germans occupied it for the majority of the war.

As Amanda said, the story isn’t about WWII, but it’s hard to write about this island in 1946 without the constant reminders of the strife they endured. The authors did a fantastic job creating characters using their own words.  One character – Adelaide Addison – only makes a few brief appearances in the novel, but you can totally picture this overbearing, self-righteous woman who butts into everyone’s business.

One thing I found most interesting is that one of the main characters never actually appears in the book. Elizabeth, an outgoing and personable woman, is the founder of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society because of her quick thinking and smooth talking. She touches the lives of all the islanders, yet is absent from the island prior to the novel’s beginning. I feel the author was especially skilled in developing this character through other’s view of her, especially since there were so many different views of her.

I loved this book much more than I had anticipated. By the time Juliet met the islanders, I was hooked. There are a few rumors regarding the movie for Potato Peel Something-or-Other, my favorite being that they are in talks with Kenneth Branagh to direct it. It looks like the aim is to have it out in 2013. I hope they do make this movie – I would love to see Guernsey and its fictional people come to life.

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