Updated: Apr 18, 2019
Me and a few friends hosted a blog called The Bookish Spot a few months back. Read below my review of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society that was originally on our website!
Based off of the novel by Mary Anne Shafer, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Pie Peel Society follows author Juliet Ashton in 1946. Just a year after WWII ends, she begins exchanging letters with residents on the island of Guernsey. She learns about the lives of these islanders during the German occupation, and decides to meet them in order to learn more about what happened, and what moved them to form a literary society.
I sat down to watch this movie a couple months ago, and within five minutes I was completely engaged in the story. I knew it was going to be good, as I’d heard many favorable reviews within the first week of its release. However, I didn’t expect it to touch my heart the way it did.
The lives of the Guernsey residents during the German occupation were demonstrated so well; you really felt what they went through, and how it changed them as people. I loved how they accidentally formed a book club. It was an unintentional coping mechanism for them to deal with all the horrors going on around them. The way books enabled them to escape from the terror of being a prisoner in your own town, was truly beautiful. It gave them something to hold onto when they were in the midst of losing everything. I wasn’t even thirty minutes into the film and I was already in love.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Lily James as Juliet was the perfect casting choice. Every scene she was in was done with just the right amount of emotion and feeling, and I really believed her character. Not only did she display Juliet as a person perfectly, but Juliet as a writer as well. Those are two different kinds of people entirely, and I really felt like she hit the nail on the head with how writers think, feel and work.
One of my favorite scenes of hers, was the flashback scene when Juliet comes home to find her apartment completely blown apart. The amount of pure terror, shock and heartbreak in her reaction was exactly how you’d expect someone to react when their house has been bombed.
The part where she reaches for her snowglobe and nearly falls out of the building was so heart wrenching. The way she just collapsed into tears left a lasting impression on me for days.
Michiel Huisman as Dawsey was honestly my favorite of all the characters. Despite Dawsey being a rather quiet man, you could see how passionate he was deep down. Huisman has very expressive eyes, and I found I didn’t need to listen to the dialogue in order to see what Dawsey was thinking. You could see that he was truly living his character, not just reflecting it.
Not to mention the chemistry between him and Lily James was spot on. The scene where Juliet proposes to Dawsey is IMO the most romantic thing I’ve ever witnessed in a movie. It was so pure and sweet; it made me want to get on a plane and go to Guernsey and find my own Dawsey!
- I really appreciated the way the society was displayed as being a true family. You could see how they all loved one another, and how much comfort they all brought to each other both during and after the war.
- The character of Elizabeth McKenna, though smaller in physical appearance, has a huge impact on the story. Jessica Brown Findlay played it off in such an effective way, that you come to care so much for her even though she has barely any screen time.
- I enjoyed that the character of Mark wasn’t shown to be a complete scumbag. In reading the book I just hated him and rolled my eyes every time he showed up. He didn’t seem to appreciate her as a writer, and it felt like he expected her to give up her career after they married. However, the film shows him as being a pretty decent man. He didn’t suit Juliet’s life or her needs, but that wasn’t a fault on him as a person.
I also liked that he wasn’t all understanding when Juliet broke things off. That’s a realistic reaction when someone you love doesn’t love you back. And him coming back to kiss her on the head before leaving, was a very sweet gesture and showed that he truly cared for her.
- Additionally, I really loved that despite her success with the Izzy Bickerstaff column, Juliet considered her Anne Bronte Biography to be her true masterpiece (next to her Guernsey book of course). It barely sold any copies, but was the book she was proudest of and chose to share with the literary society. This showed how truly passionate she was about writing. Most authors will treasure what they believe to be their best writing, even if no one ever reads it.
One thing I wish we saw more of was Sidney’s character. I would have loved to see his reaction to meeting the friends Juliet made. Because he was her best friend it would have been interesting to see him take notice of Juliet’s attraction to Dawsey. It would have been a sweet moment between two friends who want the best for each other.
He knew how she felt about Dawsey, but because they don’t meet onscreen, it makes his relief of her dumping Mark less impactful and sweet than it could have been (Lets also acknowledge that Matthew Goode is basically the modern day Carey Grant, and under-use of him as an actor is a true crime).
HOW IT COMPARES TO THE BOOK
In all honesty, I prefer the movie to the book. This may be a crime to bookworms everywhere, but I found I related to the characters and the setting much more in the film. Books written solely through letters can be difficult to follow, and I found I couldn’t tell what the characters were really feeling.
The movie however sticks to the integrity of the novel, and improves upon it further by giving us more insight and backstory into character’s lives. Juliet in the novel was a little boring, and I found her to be rather cynical at times. In the film though, she’s shown as being much more cheery and youthful. Nevertheless, the book is still a treasure, and if it hadn’t been written the film wouldn’t be with us today.
Needless to say, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is now among the list of my favorite movies. I found it to be compelling and moving in a way that I haven’t experienced since I watched Anne Of Green Gables for the first time. The story of a group of people finding serenity during the terror of war is something very different for its genre. Many films based during wartime tend to focus on the negative. But despite the heartbreaking events that happen in this film, I felt uplifted through it all. Netflix has given us a true gem with extreme rewatch-ability, and I look forward to revisiting Guernsey again!
What did you think of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society? Have you read the book? Let me know in the comments below!
Click below to watch the trailer: