The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, based on a book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, is set in
In 1946, this particular author, Juliet Ashton, (sensitively played by Lily James) receives a letter from one of the group that whets her appetite, so she leaves London and her American boyfriend and travels to Guernsey to meet the members of the Society. She wants to write about the group, but this idea is coldly received - and where is Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), the originator of the group and its name? Slowly, as Juliet remains on the island, the sad secrets of the group are revealed. The film does have the predictable happy ending, but there is much sadness and loss along the way.
The film starts with some PATHE News footage of the surrender of the Germans on Guernsey in 1945: the voice-over is quite shockingly jingoistic to our present-day ears (to paraphrase, according to the narrator, the commander showed all the typical unpleasant attributes of his race). However, I found the film had similar traits – only one good German in contrast to all the other bad ones. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that we only get the one view of the occupation which is maybe fair enough in the context of the story.
The period is beautifully created, although if I lived on Guernsey I think I would be sorry that Clovelly and other parts of Devon were sometimes used as locations – maybe that is the only way to show Guernsey as it then was. The acting was superb: Tom Courtenay in fine form, Matthew Goode a very debonair publisher/friend to Juliet and Penelope Wilton conveys anger and pain very convincingly. Jessica Brown Findlay is a feisty Elizabeth and Katherine Parkinson is a suitably scatty Isola. Dutch-born Michiel Huisman as Dawsey is new to me (but then I don’t watch Game of Thrones!) but provides a smoldering, brooding contrast to Glen Powell’s suave American fiancé. The film has been accused of whimsy: yes, it is whimsical, but it doesn’t skirt round the horrors of war and there is more than a nod to the growing independence of women. And the book reading scenes are a delight. For me, it was also a useful reminder that one part of Britain was indeed occupied during World War Two.