The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published last year, has become a favorite with reading group members and other bibliophiles. The novel, which is told through letters, unfolds the story of a group of Guernsey residents who form a book club as an alibi while the English Channel island is occupied by Nazis during World War II.

ReadingGroupGuides.com has an interview with Mary Bonelli, who shares her experiences visiting Guernsey with her book club. They were the winners of a contest sponsored by publisher Random House and–out of 56,000 entries–received a four-day trip to the island to explore the novel’s setting.  Mary is the author of the gorgeous Book Lovers 2010 Calendar. It’s filled with photographs, literary facts and stories, author birthdays and more. A portion of the proceeds are donated to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides books to disadvantaged children.

Long before Shaffer and Barrows’ novel brought literary adventurers to Guernsey, it was the home of Victor Hugo during his self-imposed exile from France (for political reasons) in the mid-1800s. For 14 years he resided in a white stone abode lavishly decorated with mirrors, figurines, and other items he acquired in antique shops on the island. 

Hauteville House was shown to visitors when Hugo was away, and during the summer of 1867, nearly a thousand bibliophiles toured the writer’s residence. While living here he completed Les Miserables, although the masterpiece was nearly lost in a mishap. During Hugo’s relocation from the island of Jersey to Guernsey, a trunk containing the manuscript almost went overboard.

Visit www.victorhugo.gg for more on Hugo’s Guernsey.

[Photo ©Guernsey Information Centre]