Monthly Archives: April 2015

Book Review; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

My favourite books

For those of you who have already seen this post in draft format, apologies, it decided to publish itself, clearly too eager to wait for me to finish it!

On a trip to Bathurst recently I renewed my love of secondhand bookstores, purchasing eleven new books in the process, that’s my winter reading sorted. I just adore the rows and row of books; that old and worn book smell, the intrigue as to who the books former owner was and who else has thumbing through its pages deciding whether or not to give it a home. One of these eleven books that I picked up was Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Borrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Now I’d seen this book in London and the title had always intrigued me, but for some unfathomable and shameful reason I never bought it!

At the weekend, with the wind howling outside and the rain beating against the windows I sat inside curled up in front of an ope fire, with a cup of green tea, an Anzac cookie and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in hand. In my opinion, the absolutely perfect reading conditions!

The book is an epistolary novel, which is not a format I’ve read since reading Evelina by Francis Burney at University. The correspondence is between the main character Juliet Ashton and a range of characters from friends, to acquaintances, her publisher and a suitor.

It is the most delightful, witty, well written, captivating and beautifully descriptive book that I have read in a long time. I had heard nothing but praise for it and now I know why. Mary Ann was clearly an avid reader with a love for literature and reading. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is like taking the things you love the most about your favourite books and rolling them into one marvellous novel.

At times I was reminded of Anne of Green Gables, when Juliet writes to Sophie and tells her that she is going to ‘run through the wild-flower meadow outside my door and up to the cliff as fast as I can. Then I”m going to lie down and look at the sky, which is shimmering like a pear this afternoon, and breath in the warm scent of grass’.

The game ‘Dead Bride’ which Juliet and Kit play, could easily have been something Lucy Maud Montgomery might have had Diana and Anne play at in Anne of Green Gables. The description is very Anne like; ‘The bride veils herself in a lace curtain and stuffs herself into a laundry basket, where she lies as though dead while the anguished bridegroom hunts for her. When he finally discovers her entombed in the laundry basket, he breaks into loud wails’.

I got glimpses of the Secret Garden when Kit and Dawsey watch a blackbird tug a worm out of the ground. And the description of how the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was founded and the roast pig saga is almost Wodehousian in it’s description and humour.

Juliet’s London suitor Mark Rynolds is like a modern day version of Mr Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility; handsome, proud, fickle and vivacious, while Dawsey is a Mr Rochester like character; mysterious, brooding and hiding a ‘secret sorrow’.

Mary Ann’s fabulously vivid imagery really brings her characters to life and I found myself laughing aloud as well as close to tears at a number of points throughout the book. I particularly liked when she describes Isola as being ‘better than a stalking horse’, her language is so full of luscious words, images and quirky sayings.

The book mentions many loved authors and well known books, poems and plays. The Brontë sisters, in particular Anne Brontë are mentioned extensively as well as Charles Lamb, Shakespeare, Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and there is an entire Oscar Wilde section, as well as many more favourites.

Mary Ann’s novel has also got a serious historical side to it through it’s setting in post World War II Europe and its focuses on the German Occupation of Guernsey. I have to say I was ignorant of the fact that Guernsey had been occupied during the war, so it was equally intriguing to read about this from a historical point of view. The book mentions the Todt workers, the German prisoners of war who were sent to Guernsey to work during the Occupation and the inhumane way they were treated. Two of the characters are sent to Concentration Camps in Germany, and the Islanders experience of the Occupation is detailed and harrowing in it’s description.

If you love books, reading and literature, you will adore The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I don’t know how and why but this book makes you feel so good but it does. It also makes me want to re read all my favourite books again. I have to say, I’m really missing all my books at the moment, they give such a homely touch to a place and I just want to be able to get up, browse through them and re read all my favourites. One day I’ll get them all from London, and line a bookshelf with my old and trusted friends.


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Wiser words on teaching after surviving my second teaching placement (at a private school)

Year 10 student comment

Year 10 student comment

With three weeks and counting left before I have to submit my final assignment for University, I feel that I’ve come a long way since starting out last September, both in relation to learning about the ins and outs of teaching and of course actually standing in front of a class and teaching.

Year 8 student comment

Year 8 student comment

For my first teaching placement I spent seven weeks at a local public school, after which I have to admit I was slightly skeptical about my second placement which was to be at the local private school. Being myself from the Irish public school system (although at the time I did not rate it and I’m not sure how it’s changed since I was at school) I was already somewhat prejudiced towards the private system, with what I believed were a number of solid reasons. However, after having spent six weeks teaching and working at the private school, my views have changed considerably. Yes, there were elements that I had had preconceived ideas about which proved to be well founded, however, as a whole the school was great, the students were a delight (most of the time) and the other teachers were not only excellent teachers but also very supportive and inclusive.

Year 10 student comment

Year 10 student comment

I know that I already mentioned in a previous blog my slight trepidation regarding my choice of going into teaching before my first placement, and how I was relieved that I had made the right decision during my time at the school. Well this was only further reinforced during my second placement.

Year 8 student comment

Year 8 student comment

At one point during the six weeks I was asked by the principle and other teachers if I could give a careers talks about my background and experiences both of working and University to the Year 9s and the Year 10s. I assented and spent a half hour on two consecutive Thursdays talking about and answering question regarding my previous experiences. When asked by a student in the Year 9 class whether I thought different types of people were suited to certain jobs, I responded that I did believe this was the case, to which I was further pressed as to whether I believed my personality was right for the fields and jobs I had chosen (journalism and PR), this really made me think. The honest answer that I came up with and responded to the class with, was that no, I don’t believe my personality fitted either the field of PR or journalism, but that I had gone outside of my comfort zone and tried and succeeded in both areas, growing with each experience and acquiring new skills. It was only after I said this out load that I realised that standing in front of a class and teaching is the most natural thing for me and it’s the most comfortable I’ve ever felt. Yes, I was terrified at the start and the idea of being unprepared for a class truly frightens me (which is why I don’t believe I’ll ever be unprepared for a lesson) but it feels right and that’s what I told the students.

That’s the great thing (I really despise that word, its such a filler and lazy word) about living in the 21st Century, you don’t have to know and decide what to do with your life straight after finishing school. You can go on to try many different things before you decide or find out what it is you’re supposed to or want to do. It took me a few years, but I learnt so much in the process and had the opportunity to travel at the same time, I’d never take any of it back.

And the most rewarding things about teaching; well it’s when you teach a great lesson, when you inspire students and when they write lovely things about you when asked to feedback on your teaching!

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