Movie Review: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”

Good morning and Happy Labor Day! After spending a glorious weekend at my aunt and uncle’s lake house, sitting on the dock with the wind and waves, enjoying brownies and barbecue, baiting my own fishing hooks with LIVE SHRIMP and also baiting crab traps with FROZEN FISH with my bare hands (see how I rose to the occasion with courage and fortitude?), I’m back in my writing nook. I’m resting up, checking the updates for that tropical storm that’s headed our way (hardly the storm of the century–we’ll be fine)…and still pondering over the beautiful film I finally got to see with my mom, sisters, grandmother, aunt, and cousin this weekend.

In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.

–IMDB summary

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyhas been one of my favorite books for a long time. In fact, it’s dethroned The Help as my favorite book; I’ve read it more times than I can count, and it never gets old. So when I found out about the new movie I was over the moon–until I also found out it wouldn’t be in American theaters. To add insult to injury, it has only been released to American audiences (so far) on Netflix.

I don’t (and will probably never) have Netflix. It’s one of the few disadvantages of living out in the sticks: satellite internet with a strict bandwidth cap simply won’t permit it.

My grandmother, however, suggested that we watch it while we were at the lake house–and sure enough, my aunt and uncle have a Netflix account and all the other ladies in the family were eager to see it, too! So we unfolded the couch beds, sipped coffee, and crowded around for a cozy afternoon with some of my most beloved fictional friends.

Juliet Ashton (Lily James)

Juliet Ashton (played by the ever-wonderful Lily James) is still adjusting to the realities of post-war life. She wants to write “a serious book,” something completely different from the humorous ones she penned during the war to keep herself and her fellow Englanders from despair. While searching for that perfect subject she begins an unexpected correspondence with Dawsey Adams, a pig farmer on the Island of Guernsey, who tells her about a book club he and his friends formed during the Nazi occupation of the island.

The more Juliet learns about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the more intrigued she is–not only by the idea of books carrying this close-knit community through hard times, but by the members of the society themselves. Most fascinating of all is Elizabeth McKenna, the society’s high-spirited founder…who, for some mysterious reason, is nowhere to be found when Juliet finally comes to visit Guernsey.

Juliet meets resistance, puzzles, and internal conflict along the way, but she’s convinced there’s a story on Guernsey that must be told…if only she has the courage to write it.

Juliet and Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman)

The movie did not disappoint. There were definitely some changes from the book, some of which were pretty major–but I understood why they changed what they did. The book is an epistolary novel, which means it’s told solely through letters between the characters (and, at the very end, some hilarious journal entries), and I can only imagine how difficult it must’ve been to adapt a narrative like that to a screenplay. The writers did a good job, in my opinion, of condensing the story for the big screen.

It’s a visually delightful film, too. I want Juliet’s entire wardrobe, haha! And the island of Guernsey–absolutely stunning. The cast couldn’t have been more perfect. Michael Huisman’s Dawsey is exactly how I envisioned him in the book: quiet, hard-working, and gentle. Isola Pribby, the hilarious red-headed herbalist, could’ve been reduced to a two-dimensional caricature, yet Katherine Parkinson played her with such depth and tenderness. Penelope Wilton’s Amelia and Tom Courtenay’s Eben were fantastic, while Jessica Brown Findlay portrayed Elizabeth with fire and compassion. And Matthew Goode as Juliet’s publisher Sidney Stark–ohhhh my goodness. Months ago when I found out who was playing Sidney Stark, I was beside myself. HE WAS BORN FOR THIS ROLE.

Sidney Stark (Matthew Goode) and Juliet

But it was a conversation between Sidney and Juliet that made me cry. I can’t find the exact quotes anywhere on the Internet–if someone could direct me towards a transcript I will be indebted to you–but it’s at the darkest point of the story. Juliet is at the end of her rope; she doesn’t believe she’ll ever be able to tell this story, and she tells Sidney, tearfully, “I’m afraid.”

And Sidney Stark, her distinguished publisher and her best friend, he gets down on his knees beside her and says something along the lines of, “Ah. She doubts. She doesn’t believe. She craves being taken seriously but then she won’t do that for herself.”

And that’s when I started crying. Because I’ve been Juliet–I’ve been so paralyzed by fear, I could hardly get a word down–and you know who’s been my Sidney Stark this whole time? My mom, who sat right beside me on that fold-out couch bed, patting my knee gently while I cried and cried and Sidney continued to encourage Juliet, reminding her that she is more than capable of telling this beautiful story: “I think you’re better than you yet know. And as your friend, of many, many, many years, I’ve seen you reach for what you want. You have that courage.

I’m crying again as I write this; that’s how deeply this scene affected me. People don’t often realize just how hard and lonely a writer’s work can be sometimes. We have to remind ourselves, constantly, that all those hours slogging away at plots and characters and research count for something, that we’re doing work that mattersBut when we struggle to get those words on paper, or when we’re afraid we won’t be able to do those stories justice, it feels like we’re drowning.

Sidney Stark, however, reminded me (just like my mom does, all the time) that my stories do matter. By God’s grace I do have the courage and the strength to write the stories He’s given me, the ones that need to be told–even though the weight of those stories can scare me half to death sometimes.

“If books do have the power to bring people together,” Juliet tells her Guernsey friends when she sends them her manuscript, “this one may work its magic.” And that is the message of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Stories have power–beautiful, frightening, majestic power–and so long as those stories are full of light and hope and goodness, then they can (and will) carry us through the bleakest times.

8 thoughts on “Movie Review: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”

  1. I’m so pleased you also loved what is one of the best films I’ve seen all year; I honestly wanted it to go on for at least another hour so I could have spent as much time as possible with these wonderful characters I wish were real!

    Lastly, you requested a transcript; this is the link for the only one I’ve found in my own searching; hope it works!:


    1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much for that transcript!!! I’m going to go back and edit my post now with the exact lines–which are so, so good. You have made my day and it’s not even 7 AM, haha! Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this movie! I just recently watched it with the kids.

    Owen pointed me to your blog. I’m enjoying reading your thoughts. You are SO witty and brilliant!! I cannot wait to read your book!


    1. Oh my goodness–thank you so much, Miss Donna! Seeing this comment put a big smile on my face! You and your family are so awesome. I’m so glad we’ve become friends 🙂


  3. Hi! 😄 Shay recommended your blog to me, and I love it! (Not a Whovian yet, but you’re both doing a great job of convincing me I should become one.) Why have I never heard of this book before now?! It sounds terrific! I just went to add it to my TBR list, and definitely plan on watching the movie at some point. I can already tell I’m going to like Juliet a whole lot.


    1. So lovely to meet you, Audrey! I am so honored to hear I’m part of the group effort to get you into Doctor Who, haha!

      Trust me: you will never regret reading “Guernsey.” It’s so hilarious and poignant, and it just gets better each time you read it. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since the movie came out on Netflix, and they STILL haven’t released it on American DVD. But that’s okay. I’ll just keep checking Amazon to see if it’s available until they finally do the thing. I am nothing if not persistent 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My mom ordered it for me to read on vacation next week! (I also got Book Girl.) She handed them to me when they came in yesterday and said: “Don’t read them until the trip.” I gave them back because I don’t trust myself. 😆


      2. (*gasps in delight*) Book Girl is AMAZING–you’re going to love it! It completely changed the trajectory of my year, at least in a literary sense: I’ve already read more wonderful books in the past six months than I have in a very long time.

        Liked by 1 person

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