The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Book vs Film Review
Last week I went to see The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (hereafter known as Guernsey) and despite lukewarm reviews I really enjoyed it. I'd just finished the book and although the film didn't have as much depth and was a bit cornier, I actually thought it was very well adapted too.
Guernsey is an epistolary novel by Mary Ann Shaffer (finished by her friend Annie Barrows as she died partway through) set in post WW2 London and Wartime occupied Guernsey - that's the second largest of the Channel Islands. The story follows Juliet Ashton, a writer who receives a letter from a Guernsey native who happens to have an old book of hers. A correspondence is struck up between them, eventually extending to his friends, or rather his reading group: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The book was a bit slow to get going, but it had a great cast of characters and I liked getting to know them all as Juliet did. I kind of wished she'd hurry up and get to the Island though.
I wondered how they'd manage translating the book to film, what with the letters and the flashbacks and the subtly developing romance, but overall I was impressed. It was maybe a bit long and some of the characters and a lot of the threads were culled, Mark's character was changed a bit and some of the dark themes (e.g the todt workers, the concentration camp stuff) were minimised. But the romance was done really well. And the casting was great. I particularly liked Penelope Wilson as Amelia, and of course, Michiel Huisman's Dawsey. I was also kind of disappointed they didn't film in actual Guernsey - but Devon looks beautiful!
I think part of the appeal of both the book and the film is the originality of the setting and story. I've been to Jersey (the biggest of the Islands) so I knew a bit about the history - but a lot of people don't realise the Nazis got so close to landing on British soil. It's scary. The author setting the story just after the war looking back, was a bit of a masterstroke. It means you can have all the dramatic and heartrending stories but the overall tone doesn't have to be too dark.
Overall I enjoyed the book as a nice light read, and I thought the film was lovely. Especially all the reading group scenes (makes me want to join one myself) Juliet's clothes (the yellow dress! All those jumpers and high-waisted trousers!) and, er, Dawsey. Would definitely recommend.