I was hiking a dirt pathway that snaked along the clifftop around Saint’s Bay on the British island of Guernsey. Wind rustled the brush, and some 200 feet below, the teal-blue ocean sent waves crashing against granite boulders. As I drank in the sunlit scene, I stopped to think: A book drew me here.
I’m not alone. Since its 2008 debut, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, has drawn hundreds of visitors to this 25-square-mile island in the English Channel. Still more have come because of the 2018 Netflix movie. The book became the pathway through which I discovered Guernsey’s charms.
“People arrive here with the book in hand and want to see the places where Juliet Ashton, Dawsey Adams, and others lived,” said Gold Accredited tour guide Gill Girard, as she showed me around St. Peter Port, the island’s capital. They can’t do that because the book is fictional, written in the form of letters exchanged, and the characters’ homes aren’t actual buildings.
But the novel’s setting is real and reveals a lesser-known chapter of World War II history. On June 30, 1940, German troops landed by plane on Guernsey, which lies just 30 miles off the Normandy coast. Some 15,000 German troops occupied the island until May 9, 1945. Potato Peel Pie fans can make pilgrimages to locations described in the book, as I did.