13th December 1934
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Mary Ann Shaffer’s name has become inextricably linked with Guernsey, even though she spent just a few days on the island and saw very little of it. She was a librarian, bookseller and editor who visited Guernsey and became stranded at the airport when the weather closed in. It was two decades later that, fulfilling a lifelong ambition to write a novel of her own, she used this experience as her starting point, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was born.
Her book, set just after the war but recounting the experiences of a group of fictional Guernsey residents during the occupation, won rave reviews from its first appearance, but Shaffer, who died on 16 February 2008, sadly didn’t get to read any of them: it was published posthumously after her niece Annie Barrows finished it while Shaffer was fighting cancer.
The novel topped the New York Times Best Seller List in 2009. The Potato Peel Pie in its title was entirely made-up, but variations have been invented up to fit its name.
From page to screen
The book’s publication was just the start of the Potato Peel phenomena, though, with merchandise and tours now available on Guernsey, and the story being turned into a feature film, which released in 2018.
Although it promotes the island, very little of the film was actually shot in Guernsey because it was too logistically difficult. Some footage was inserted for the sake of realism, but otherwise filming took place on the mainland. Devon and Cornwall stood in for Guernsey in most scenes. Bideford was used for St Peter Port. Morwenstow, Cornwall, was used for coastal scenes. Clovelly, Devon, was used for the harbour. Filming began in March 2017 under the direction of Mike Newell. The film was financed and distributed by StudioCanal
It had been several years in the planning, with Kenneth Brannagh at one point appointed to direct it. Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway were at various times named as potential lead actors.