I know! This movie has been out for a month already. Forgive my belated review, but my blog fell down and it couldn’t get up–at least not without the help of my trusty web guy, Dan.
Before my blog was down, I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix the night it dropped and took lots and lots of notes! I don’t want to waste them, right? 🙂 And folks are still watching for the first time, and discussing it, so here are my thoughts on my freshly debugged bloggy lilypad:
- The book is better, but we knew that going in, didn’t we? It’s always better, except in the case of “Crazy Rich Asians”! It’s true–that movie is better than the book!
- Downton fans rejoice: The presence of not one, not two, not three, but four “Downton Abbey” alums enriched this film: Lily James as Juliet; Matthew Goode, as Juliet’s dashing publisher, Sidney; Jessica Findlay Brown (dearly departed Sibyl!) as dear, possibly departed Elizabeth; Penelope Wilton as book club member Amelia.
3.The quote of quotes, which warms the hearts of bookish souls everywhere: “Perhaps there is some sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” Sigh. So true.
4. Lily James’ Juliet is lovely, and much like I imagined her in the book. James is one of my favorites and is warm and engaging here as a young writer, grieving the loss of her parents in the London Blitz just five years before. The girl is still shell-shocked and lonely deep down under her polished veneer. “The world of books is where I found my home,” she says. So it’s no surprise she feels an immediate affinity for the pig farmer who writes her a letter with a question about a book. As if lured by a homing device, Juliet must get to Guernsey. When she is given the assignment to write an article about reading, she decides to write about the eccentric members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club started during the Nazi occupation of the island.
5. Both in the book and the movie, we fall in love with Dawsey from his first or second letter to Juliet. Dutch actor Michiel Huisman is Dawsey wish fulfillment: a handsome, rugged farmer who really digs reading. I mean, what else do we have to know? Juliet and Dawsey are pen pals and bookish kindred spirits before they even lay eyes on each other.
6. It’s easy to root for dear Juliet to find community and family with the members of the GL&PPPS, as they are so needful of her and she of them. There is crusty Eben, wary Amelia (Penelope Wilton), bubbly Isola, and the ghost of Elizabeth (Jessica Findlay Brown). Because make no mistake–Elizabeth is still a member of the Society, present at every meeting. (By the way, you gotta love a book club that passionately argues whether Jane Eyre or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the better book!)
7. Guernsey! Oh my stars. How gloriously beautiful is this island in the English Channel, closer to France than to England (hence the Nazi occupation). Filmmakers maximize the vistas of silvery waves and craggy cliffs, with scenes that surely placed the island on countless travel bucket lists. I want to pack my bags now and live there forever with Juliet, Dawsey, and the unicorns.
8. Juliet’s NASTY landlady makes insinuations about the missing Elizabeth’s character, and Juliet begins to wonder what actually happened to the vanished book club member. She feels a strong tug to Elizabeth, and her heart breaks for Elizabeth’s little daughter, Kit, being cared for by Dawsey. (Because who can resist a man who willingly loves another man’s child as his own?)
When Juliet finds out the truth, that Elizabeth fell in love with a German soldier and was arrested for helping another soldier, a starving teenager, Juliet trusts her new friends enough to know that if they accepted Christian, he must have been a good guy.
My biggest beef with the movie? Christian, the German soldier, is intriguing and compelling in the book, but here he is a woefully underdeveloped blip. Maybe I was so fascinated with Christian because several of my uncles were forcibly conscripted into the German army as teenagers. They were literally the starving teenage soldiers Elizabeth helped! I know they were presented with the choice–be a soldier for the German Army or die. I’m sad when I think about how they suffered at such a tender age.
Christian and Elizabeth’s relationship was captivating in the book, too, so it is a shame it was nearly AWOL in the movie.
9. As a writer, I related to Juliet. Her fears in writing the book of her heart (“What if I’m not a good enough writer?”) and how the story overtakes her until she has swollen eyes and a crick in her neck. She pours everything she has into this once-in-a-lifetime story and it’s inspiring to witness her zeal. But will this important work ever see the light of day?
10. The movie has been praised for being lovely and charming–comfort food for the spirit. It’s also been panned for being predictable, and not challenging or provocative enough.
Both critiques are true. I loved cuddling up to this film in my living room. It made laugh and tear up. The scenery! The Downton Abbey folk! And the wondrous statement it makes about books, readers, and the reading life. “You already know what books can do,” Juliet says. We do. Books transport us to magical places like Guernsey we may never visit but wish we could. They cultivate deep kinships with characters we will never meet but know in the deepest corners of our souls. That’s what the Guernsey book did for me. Too bad the movie didn’t stretch far enough to do the same.
What did YOU think of the movie?