Books set in Guernsey
Guernsey has been the setting of many novels and non-fiction books. The most famous – at least to modern audiences – is almost certainly The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was published in 2008 and later turned into a film.
However, it’s not alone. Guernsey and Sark have been the inspiration for many books, while Guernsey itself was the home of one of the most famous writers of all time, Victor Hugo. He had a house in St Peter Port and lives on as a statue in Candie Gardens.
Click the links below to learn more about Guernsey’s literary history and the books and novels set in Guernsey, or written on the island.
Although published in 2008, Mary Ann Shaffer might never have dreamed up the story of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society if she hadn’t been streanded in fog at Guernsey airport 20 years before sitting down to start writing. It tells the story of writer Juliet Ashton who falls in love with Guernsey and the people she meets there through a series of letters.
Lily James, of Downton Abbey, starred as Juliet Ashton in the cinema adaptation of the famous book about Guernsey. Although the film was set in Guernsey, none of it was actually filmed on the island. Cornwall stood in for many locations.
This book is not only about Guernsey, but was written on the island and dedicated to it, too. Toilers of the Sea was first published in 1862 in three parts but didn’t sell as well as Hugo’s previous work, Les Miserables. It had originally been called Les Travailleurs de la Mer. Elements of the story were later used in the film The Sea Devils. If you haven’t read it, and don’t intend to, click here for a summary of Toilers of the Sea.
Novelist Mervyn Peake, who is best remembered for writing the Gormenghast series of books, also wrote the story of Mr Pye, who came to Sark to try and bring religion to the people living there. It was later filmed as a four-part mini-series and broadcast on Channel 4 in 1986.
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is considered by many to be the most authentic story about life on Guernsey. Now a classic, it focuses on the life of Ebenezer Le Page, from his birth in the late 1800s to his death in the early 1960s, taking in the German occupation along the way. It was finally published in 1981, five years after author GB Edwards’ death, having been rejected by several publishers over the years.
The action in this science fiction book from 1965 follows a series of global earthquakes that have caused massive, irreversible environmental damage to the planet. The main character is a Guernsey tomato farmer who has to get to the mainland to find his daughter. Although most of the world’s population has been killed and there’s no transport, he does have one thing working in his favour: the sea has dried up, allowing him to walk all the way from Guernsey to the mainland’s south coast, by way of Alderney.
Although it started as a comic strip in the Guernsey Press, Stone de Croze, the story of a caveman living on Guernsey, later appeared as a collection in two published books.
Admittedly, The Wombles was set in Wimbledon, not Guernsey, but Wombles author Liza Beresford lived on neighbouring Alderney, which is within the Bailiwick of Guernsey and called one of her characters Alderney. Although she was not one of the lead roles, Alderney was the assistant of cook Madame Cholet.