#SheReviews – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

April 17, 2018

“If books do have the power to bring people together, this one may work its magic.”

Wise words from journalist and writer Juliet Ashton, the delightful main character in the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

This well -loved story is my all time favourite novel and I was more than excited when I learned it had been made into a film to be released this month.

Yet, along with my excitement came some trepidation. Would the characters remain so endearing when they move to the screen? Would the story be true to its roots? Could I actually enjoy a movie where the characters were already so familiar in my imagination?

I should not have been worried, for in the deft hands of director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and produced by the team behind The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the story came to life as beautifully as I’d remembered. Some of the characters were even better than those I had concocted in my head. In short I loved every minute of this breathtaking film.

About the Film

It is 1946 and World War II has ended when journalist Juliet Ashton is charged with doing a story for the London Times newspaper about reading. She is already part way through a book tour for her successful tome Izzy Bickerstaff Goes To War. Her very first book had sold only 28 copies…. worldwide. Yet with her change in fortunes comes changed circumstances after the austere times of war – cue dancing, frivolous fashion and the attention of a handsome American suitor. Life is good, except that Juliet appears to be stuck, incapable of writing anything new.

Her interest is piqued by the arrival of a letter from one Dawsey Adams who lives on the island of Guernsey.

He has written to tell her that a copy of a book she once owned has become very dear to him and emboldened by their mutual love of books they begin regular correspondence.

Dawsey is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a quirky book club formed during the occupation and it is not long before the other members of the society are writing to Juliet too.

There is Isola, healer, potion and gin maker, Eben Ramsay the endearing Postmaster and Amelia Maugery, grieving mother and naysayer.

As the letters fly back and forth, Juliet comes to know these extraordinary personalities and gains a sense of what life was like during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the island. But where is the mysterious Elizabeth McKenna, founding member of the society?

Here at last Juliet has found her story and she leaves behind her best friend and editor Sidney Stark and rich American fiancee Mark Reynolds to meet the islanders properly and learn more.

Once on Guernsey her world is turned upside down as she gets to know the island’s inhabitants and becomes entwined in their stories. As she digs deeper she uncovers stories of loyalty, courage and standing strong in the face of danger. She also unwittingly finds family.

The Actors

The stunning Lily James, who was in the 2015 movie Cinderella and more recently Baby Driver and Darkest Hour, lights up the screen in every scene in the role of Juliet Ashton. The casting of Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones) as Dawsey Adams was a brilliant choice. He plays the role of a shy Guernsey pig farmer to perfection.

You will see many of your favourites from Downton Abbey with Jessica Brown Findlay wonderful as the mysterious Elizabeth McKenna. She is the glue that has brought all the Guernsey residents together.

Penelope Wilton plays Amelia Maugery whose grief at the loss of her family during the war weighs on her heavily. Katherine Parkinson (The IT crowd) is a breath of fresh air as the gin swilling, kind Isola. One of my favourites, Matthew Goode, keeps the story real as Juliet’s best friend Sidney.

Glen Powell (Hidden Figures) as Julia’s fiancée Mark, plays the role with a debonair charm. The island’s youngsters almost stole the show and will be talents to watch out for in the future.

You will love all of the characters, as that’s what makes the book and film so special. It is the richness of the individual characters that you come to know and love making the viewer really care about them and what happens to them along the way.

Although much of the film was shot in Cornwall and Devon the rich history of the island and stunning scenery and photos will make you want to visit and learn more about the fascinating island of  Guernsey.

Likewise, the city scenes showing the life and colour coming back to London after the austere times of war remind you of this unique time in England’s history.

I took an English friend who had not read the book along to the preview screening to gauge her reactions. She could not take her eyes off the screen and was emotional for much of the movie, so invested was she in the lives of those on screen.

“I haven’t felt like that in years,” she said.

You may need to take your tissues!

If, like me, you are one of the 7.5 million people in 37 countries who have read and truly loved this story, you will be enchanted with the movie as much as you were reading Mary Ann Shaffer’s amazing book. The story behind the creation of this book and film is as fascinating as the novel itself.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a story like no other- a wonderful historical drama , a romance and a little bit of magic.

This beautiful film will be released on April 19. Follow your heart to the nearest cinema to enjoy this inspiring and uplifting story. I will be going again!

Michelle Beesley
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.

Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).