The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows Summary and Analysis June 1946

Summary

Thanks to the enthusiastic recruiting of Isola, Juliet's packet of interview notes for her Times article rapidly expands. Juliet spends her days socializing with the islanders, interviewing for her piece, and growing ever closer with Kit. All is going well on Guernsey, but Juliet observes that Dawsey seems distant.

Mid-month, the islanders receive tragic news that Elizabeth McKenna was executed at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in March 1945. The letter is written by Remy Giraud, a 24-year-old French woman who had stayed in the same block as Elizabeth.

The letter from Remy tells the islanders the story of Remy and Elizabeth's time together at Ravensbruck and Elizabeth's eventual execution. The two stayed in Block 11, which housed almost 400 women in cramped and unsanitary conditions. One night, Elizabeth told Remy that she had a surprise for her. The two snuck out of Block 11 to watch a beautiful sunset. Elizabeth told Remy about Guernsey and her close friends in the society, and the two quickly became close friends. While at Ravensbruck, Elizabeth spent two weeks at the punishment bunker. The first week, she had taken the blame for a stolen potato. The second week, she had stolen a rod from an overseer and beaten her over the head for unjustly punishing a fellow bunk mate. During her second trip to the punishment bunker, Elizabeth was shot in the back of the head.

Enclosed in the letter from Remy is another note from Sister Cecile Touvier, Remy's caretaker at a hospice in Louviers, France. She explains Remy's physical and emotional weakness after the traumatizing experience and asks that the islanders not question her further about it.

Amelia responds to Remy with somber gratitude for the news of Elizabeth's death and proposes that she and Dawsey visit Remy in Louviers. Remy agrees, and the two arrive in France to visit her hospice. Dawsey writes to Juliet of the bombed and ravaged nature of Louviers. Perhaps even more haunting is Remy herself, a former beauty now severely underweight with haunted eyes. Amelia and Dawsey learn that Remy is completely alone in the world — her parents and brothers went missing in the war.

Meanwhile, Juliet continues to contemplate a topic for her next book. She wants to write about Guernsey, but cannot compile her stories and interviews into a coherent whole.

Analysis

As Juliet's time on Guernsey progresses, she grows infinitely closer with Kit. She earns Kit's loyalty by exploring the island with her on a daily basis, unabashedly playing silly games like Dead Bride, and attending island social events with her as a pair. Unconsciously, Juliet is beginning to fill the maternal void that Elizabeth left behind. In fact, and not coincidentally, the strengthening of the bond between Juliet and Kit happens during the same timeframe that news of Elizabeth McKenna's death finally reaches Guernsey. Elizabeth had been an unconventional mother — perhaps too wild in the eyes of some — but a tirelessly devoted mother nonetheless. Likewise, Juliet functions as an all-around playmate, dedicated caregiver, and close confidante for Kit. Although the islanders raised her to the best of their ability, Kit needs the intimate bond of a mother and daughter.

Kit also fills a large void in Juliet's life, as well. In war-torn London, Juliet did not have an outlet for playfulness or, more importantly, the unconditional love of a child. Through her budding relationship with Kit, Juliet's mentality shifts from that of a young single woman to a more mature maternal figure. In light of Juliet's discontent with city life, Kit could not have come into her life at a better time. Furthermore, Juliet's interest in Mark Reynolds wanes even further with her shifting mentality. She realizes that his superficial companionship would not pull her out of the rut her life had been in since the war. Juliet is now fully integrated into island life, particularly Kit's upbringing, and begins to find fulfillment and inner peace that the monotony of London could not offer.

The news of Elizabeth's death from Remy Giraud is an important turning point in the novel. The long-pending closure to the mystery of Elizabeth's whereabouts is bittersweet for the islanders: Although the news is tragic, the islanders are grateful that the seemingly endless period of speculation is over. Amelia Maugery somberly sums up the islanders' mentality, stating, "We had been praying that she would return to us, but it is better to know the truth than to live in uncertainty." Because Elizabeth had united the islanders during and after the occupation with the continued meetings of the literary society, they awaited her return to simply feel whole again. Life since Elizabeth's departure had been filled with hopelessness and uncertainty for her loved ones.

Now aware of Elizabeth's death, her loved ones can finally begin the healing process and grow even closer by honoring her life. Through Remy's letter, they learn that her kindness and courage never wavered even while she experienced the horrors of a concentration camp. Most importantly, the letter immortalizes Elizabeth's strength for her young daughter Kit. Remy's story imparts a vital and previously hidden chapter in Elizabeth's life, but it proves that her character never changed. For instance, Elizabeth overlooked potentially fatal consequences when she accepted the blame for another passenger's dropped potato — she upheld the strong sense of justice she was known for on Guernsey. Not even the horrors and high stakes of a concentration camp shook Elizabeth's upstanding character and strong sense of self. Her forbidden journey to watch the sun rise outside of Ravensbruck with Remy also proves that Ravensbruck could not squander her spontaneity.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How does Elizabeth McKenna die?





Quiz