I’ve been lucky enough to see The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society twice before its release date, the second time being a screening in Vue Leicester Square hosted by yours truly, which was pretty insane. This story has gone from one I’d never heard of (and even if I had, I wouldn’t have picked it up with that mouthful of a title!), to one of my absolute favourite stories. The book and film differ in many ways but I loved them both all the same. Starring Lily James (Downton Abbey) and Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), this film has unexpectedly become one that everyone’s talking about. It’s a book lover’s dream and one you should add to your watch-list this month. Here’s why:
Set just after the end of World War II, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society follows the unlikely story of one Juliet Ashton, a popular writer from London. One day she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey, who has come across a book that once belonged to her. Oh how I wish we still lived in a world where things like this could happen! The pair strike up a correspondence and Juliet becomes so enraptured by Dawsey’s story of his literary society on Guernsey, created during the German Occupation, that she insists on visiting them herself. There, she uncovers the history of this peculiar little society and its members, even becoming a part of it herself. Her life is changed forever on this little island and the power of books, reading and community is exposed.
The first time I watched this, I absolutely loved it. I cried, I laughed, and I cried some more. I was completely enamoured with all the characters and their strangely exciting life on the island of Guernsey. The second time round, I still loved it. I still laughed, still cried, but I watched it with a slightly more critical eye. The romance is cheesy and predictable, which I had no problem with, but I imagine some others may find this a bit naff. If you’re a fan of the book, you’ll find that the film takes a lot of liberties with the original story to make it “sexier” for the screen. The romance between Juliet and her suitors is more prominent and there’s a rather clichéd love triangle between the city girl, rich gentleman and the country lad. This is a lot more subtle in the book, which is written in letter form, but hey that’s the film industry for you.
The film boasts a cast famed for their depictions of British society in decades gone by and they really bring the film to life. Some prominent actors include: Lily James (Downton Abbey), Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), Matthew Goode (The Crown), Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) and more. This film portrays both a perfectly glamourised setting of the middle class in post WWII London, and idyllic island life, which is a delight to watch. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society will transport you back to the mid-twentieth century, before mobile phones existed, when people still wrote letters and used type writers. For anyone that lived during that time, this film will hit you with a wave of nostalgia. For anyone too young to remember a time without mobile phones, you’ll wish you’d been able to experience it yourself.
However, that’s not to say this film is all sunshine and daisies. The film also reveals the hardships suffered on Guernsey Island during the German Occupation. Something that history teachers often neglect to teach is that the British Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans after the Germans took the French coast. They were only liberated at the end of the war and the British inhabitants had to live on the very same (small) piece of land as their enemies. As the film progresses, this subplot unravels, revealing just how profoundly the lives of those on Guernsey were affected, which is incredibly moving.
All in all, I’d highly recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society if you’re in the mood for a lovely, heartwarming, funny tale set in 1940s. It’s the sort of film I’ll come back to again and again on a rainy day when I want to remember all the reasons I love reading. As I said, this is a book lover’s dream and will demonstrate the power of books to bring people together, even when they appear to lead such different lives.
– In cinemas 20th April 2018 –
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