When You’re On the Stage and not In the Audience {Book Club}

Well now. I did not see that coming. This post will have a bit of a spoiler alert later. So, as we discuss our second chunk of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and you don’t want to know the spoiler alert that will be near the bottom of this post, quit reading :).

This section warmed by heart. It’s a joy to watch the relationships blossom as the islanders keep asking Juliet to visit them and she sends such thoughtful small gifts.

While at different times in my life I may have “gone without” something, I’ll admit I’ve never had to go without soap for months and months. It’s one thing not to be able to wash your clothes, it’s quite another to not be able to wash your body to the point that it creates physical problems. I felt for that girl who needed her head shaved and the scabs lanced. Oh for more Elizabeths in the world who are able to infuse joy into darkness.

In Dawsey’s 2nd April letter, he struck on two universal truths:

1. “I don’t think some Islanders ever credited the boredom of those years as a reason to befriend the enemy. Boredom is a powerful reason, and the prospect of fun is a powerful draw — especially when you are young.”

Boredom is powerful. Have you heard of HALT-B? Where have you experienced boredom in your life recently?

2. “The way that Christian and I met may a bit unusual, but I friendship was not. I’m sure many islanders grew to be friends with some of the soldiers. But sometimes I think of Charles Lamb and marvel that a man born in 1775 enabled me to make to such friends as you and Christian.”

Reading fosters friendships.


“Thompson was barred from their doors forever, and move to Guernsey to grow vegetables. Sometimes he rides with me in my cart and we talk about Man and God and all the In-between. I would have missed all this if I had not belonged to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”

I would have missed all this.

I enjoyed hearing the type of books they were each drawn too. Funny how Mrs. Clara Saussey liked to read recipes and got yelled at because of how hungry they all were. I don’t know about you, but it seems when a bunch of foreigners get together for a meal, the conversation often drifts too food. Have you noticed that too?

When Juliet referenced The Secret Garden I cheered! So far, she’s mentioned a book we’ve read (or technically an author) in each section. Do you think we’ll be three for three?

“It was England they were after, and we were of no use to them. We thought we’d be n the audience like, not up on the stage itself.” Eben wrote to Juliet when she asked about the children going to England for the duration of the war. “Families had one day to decide, and five years to abide with it.” That line struck me because more often than we’d like, our line of work can come with those “one day to decide” moments and it’s gut wrenching. What “one day decisions” have you or others you know needed to make?

I loved how Juliet turned “distraction” into an “honorable word instead of a character flaw.” The scent of hope and the power of redemption.

As I read Juliet’s long letter to Sidney after she finally arrived on Guernsey I couldn’t help thinking of us. Remember the dreams and ideas you had about the country you’d live in? And then you finally got there. For me it was late at night in a hot humid Beijing airport. If it’s night time or humid when I land, even all these years later, it comes back. And getting to meet people you’ve been corresponding with, we know that too!

The game of “Dead Bride” cracked me up.

Like most of the Islanders, I really thought Elizabeth was going to come back. Her death crushed me.

In closing, what do you think of Mark? I don’t trust him. What happened to you when you read about Elizabeth. I was reading outside and I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I sat there staring into space. Those concentration camps were awful. I hope to be like Elizabeth, willing to do the right thing even to the very end.

On that somber note, isn’t this book like life? The ups and downs? The joy and tragedy woven together. What stood out to you as you read? Can’t wait to chat . . .


Reading plan:

August 25: Roughly the final third — how are we nearly done?!!

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  1. MaDonna August 18, 2015

    Dead Bride was funny, but I loved how Juliet decided not to ask her friend Sophie about it in fear that her friend would tell her it was too morbid – because she liked the game too much! Too funny!

    I don’t trust Mark either – he’s a bit overwhelming trying to take charge of Juliet’s life like he owns her. It just rubs me the wrong way…maybe he just needs to grow up.

    Elizabeth – yes, if only there were more like her in the world today. I, too, hope that I am doing the right thing even when it is hard – to be bold. And I’m glad I was not in a public place when I read of her death, nor that my children were awake – because they just giggle and laugh when I cry over a book/movie.

    I liked that the character Christian was put in. Not all Germans were “bad” – there were some really good people who were just put in some really difficult situations. I think of my husband’s family and the stories that they tell from that time period. It was very difficult…


    1. Anna August 20, 2015

      I agree with you about Mark.  He doesn’t accept Juliet the way she is- and she’s great the way she is.  Also a good reminder that “good and bad” weren’t as clear cut as the country borders.

  2. T August 19, 2015

    So, I was set to read the 2nd chunk, but somehow finished the book  “in a oner”…oops!  😉  One thing about Mark is that he is American…as an American myself, who worked in a British-cultured organization for my formative years overseas, in a country with foreigners being more British nationals than not, I am a bit agreeing and, at the same time, sensitive to Brits’ assessments of Americans…I liked that she pointed out the positives and negatives of American-ness, and think it is funny that it kind of still applies today!  (oh that confidence!  may it come from our identity in Christ and God’s being Able, and not our own can-do spirit!)  It is good that we realize how others view us, so that we can “take it down a notch” when needed.

    Amy-on a fun note, when I googled HALT-B, your blogpost about it was the top result!  🙂

    One day to decide–it was almost in one day that one of my bf’s family decided they had to leave our country because it wasn’t safe for them anymore.  I still have the text message from her saved on my phone after almost 5 yrs.  She woke me early that morning, asking if we could come into the capital…and sort their whole house with them and a few other friends to help…”Keep, Take, Sell, Trash, Burn” were the piles.  I bet lots of you have experienced those kinds of days.  Her daughter just 2 months younger than my son, of course dearer to me than any niece I’ll ever be blood-related to, and me going thru her room with her, trying to be gentle, but get her to comprehend that she wasn’t going to live there any longer…that it wasn’t an extra vacation she was going to…


  3. Nancy August 19, 2015

    OK….I finished the book by the end of July so I know the punchline but I want to say that I don’t like Mark at all.  As I was reading along I kept thinking……He’s a jerk…..drop him…..don’t play into his wiles.  He is self-centered.  I was shocked that Juliet fell into his trap of flowers and fine dining and became his sweetheart even when it didn’t seem like she really loved it.  She just seemed to be doing it because he was good looking and from any other woman’s perspective, would be a good catch.  But he didn’t treat her well……

    Let’s remember to follow our heart and the Holy Spirit and not fall into the trap of being fooled by the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  4. Anna August 20, 2015

    “I would have missed all this.”  I can say that about so many things.  Maybe I would have missed some of the bad experiences and the pain, but there was good in there, too and lessons I learned- people I met that are now lifelong friends.

    I enjoyed reading the different perspectives on things that happened in the war and the way the bigger events affected individuals, families, even towns.  My kids and I studied world history and read quite a bit about the 2 world wars while living in Congo.  It really put things into perspective.  I felt like I gave up a lot and was living a simple, basic life.  But that was nothing compared to the conditions that many had to face during those times.

    I really wanted Elizabeth to come back, too, but there were so many deaths and losses during that time.  It gives us a little feel for what that was like.

    In Amelia’s 10th April letter she says, “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.”  So good!

    I also loved the quote from Seneca, “Light griefs are loquacious, but the great are dumb.”  I’m more of an introvert who needs time and space to process things, and this really resonated with me.

  5. Phyllis August 21, 2015

    “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.”

    That one hit me, too. Of course, Ukraine’s current war doesn’t have the scope of WWII, but it feels very much like that quote. I cried over the list of food, not Elizabeth’s death, because that was so real to what people are experiencing not far from us. In general I’m having a hard time reading anything about war these days.


    And I finally figured out that Charles Lamb is the Charles of Charles and Mary! Our beloved Tales from Shakespeare!

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