The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society Explained

1941, the island of Guernsey, located in the English Channel between Great Britain and France. The island is occupied by the Germans. Four friends – Dawsey Adams (Michil Huisman), Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown-Findlay), Isola Pribby (Katherine Parkinson) and postman Eben Ramsay (Tom Courtney) – under the cover of night roasted and ate a pig on the shore, which they hid from the Nazis. On their way back, they ran into a German patrol checking who was not following the curfew. To avoid arrest, the friends said they were coming from a literary club meeting. When asked by an officer what the club was called, they replied that it was the Book and Potato Peel Pie Club. (Eben prepares potato peel pies.)

1946 post-war London. Juliet Ashton (Lily James) lost her parents during the war. To somehow distract herself from sad thoughts, Juliet begins to write: she comes up with a character named Izzy Bickerstaff – a typical middle-class Briton, a big beer lover – and tells funny short stories on his behalf. These books became very popular, but when Juliet decided to abandon this character and write about something else, it turned out that she had no idea about this.

Once she received a letter from a certain Dawsey Adams: he writes that he found her data in the book of Charles Lamb, which once belonged to Juliet, and asks her to tell where to buy other books of Lam. Adams also said that on the island of Guernsey, where he lives, there is a literature club called the Book and Potato Peel Pie Club – that is, this fiction eventually led to the formation of a literature club.

Juliet became interested in this story, began to correspond with Adams, and eventually decided to go to this island to meet the members of the club. Her fiancé, wealthy American Mark Reynolds (Glen Powell), is against the trip, but Juliet insists and goes to the island. Especially since her publisher Sidney Stark (Matthew Goode) is asking Juliet to write an article about reading for the London Times. Juliet thought that a story about such a literary club would be just right for an article.


I very rarely watch melodramas – I don’t like this genre. And if you look at my reviews of melodramas, you can see that in the vast majority of my reviews I swear at everything: Harvey’s Last Chance, The Great Gatsby, Love Story, The Maid, and so on. Well, it’s not my genre.

However, I still try not to renounce the genre as such, because there are sucky representatives of this genre, there are unworthy ones, and there are even very worthy ones! Let’s remember that “Titanic” is a melodrama. “Office Romance” is a melodrama. “Three poplars on Plyushchikha” is also a melodrama. So melodrama melodrama – strife.

This film with such a strange and not very attractive title my wife wanted to see – she saw that there was Lily James from “Mamma Mia! 2” in the lead role. At first I was reluctant to join her, but I looked at the name of the director, and it turned out to be Mike Newell, who made the wonderful films “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Donnie Brasco”, he also directed “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” – a film made by on a computer toy, but at the same time it turned out to be very worthy of viewing.

I will watch Newell, I decided, especially since I also like Lily James: in addition to Mamma Mia, I also saw her in Downton Abbey, and it turned out that several actors from this series also starred in the new picture – Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay and Penelope Wilton.

I’ll try to see, I decided, especially since I have a 100% indicator. Remember the old theatrical phrase “You must play so that the dog comes out”? The dog went on stage when the actors stopped acting and began to speak in normal voices.

So, I have a similar indicator. When the snot tears in the melodrama exceed the limit set by the World Viewer Care Association, Bublik the cat, who is peacefully sleeping next to me on the couch while watching, wakes up and goes to the kitchen to eat. Well, he can not stand the excess of the permitted concentration. And along with Bagel, I get up from the couch and go to drink something. This is where my viewing ends.

Now let’s talk about this film and about what minute Bublik got up and whether he got up at all. The title is explained very simply – the film is based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

The story at first looks rather simple: the writer, in search of a plot, came to an island where there is a strange literary club. The characters of the club are quite colorful, and pig farmer Dawsey Adams turns out to be a simple but very charming man. He also touchingly brings up a little girl who is decidedly unlike him.

The members of the club initially received Juliet very cordially, but when she said at one of the meetings that she was going to write an article about this club for the London Times, the respectable lady Amelia Maugery (Penelope Wilton) was terribly indignant and stated that she was categorically against it. And then there is also a lack of Elizabeth among the members of the club, and no one answers questions about her fate Juliet and this topic is diligently bypassed.

So not everything is as straightforward as it seemed from the very beginning, and there is a certain semi-detective component.

It’s all set up wonderfully. Wonderful views of the island of Guernsey, colorful post-war London.

I really liked Lily James as Juliet. The character turned out to be very natural, sincere and cute. No falsehood, no theatricality. I came to the island in search of a plot for an article, met several inhabitants of the island, fell under the spell of both the island itself and these people who went through very difficult times, but supported each other by reading books together.

Matthew Goode is very good as Sidney Stark, the writer’s publisher. He really takes care of Juliet in a fatherly way, and it is clear that Sydney is very worried about her. He cannot have any love feelings for her – Juliet, in a conversation with Isola, once mentioned that Sydney is gay – but purely in a friendly way they are very close.

Juliet’s fiancé, played by Glen Powell, is quite interesting. By all accounts, he must be a complete villain, and the audience will breathe a sigh of relief when Juliet gives him a turn, preferring the quiet bucolic paradise of Guernsey to rich but depraved New York. However, the image of Mark Reynolds is not at all so clumsy here. He is not a scoundrel, he sincerely loved Juliet and, in general, is very sweet and caring. And what didn’t work out with him (it was clear from the very beginning) – well, who can resist the charming pig breeder from the island of Guernsey (this was also clear from the very beginning). And their parting was not done in a melodramatic subtle way, I really liked it. (“But he still took the expensive bottle of champagne with him,” Bublik the cat remarked. “Because romance is romance, and no one has canceled the sinister world of the cleansing man.”)

And pleased with Katherine Parkinson – frantic Jean Barber from the TV series “Geeks”. She played Isola here – a lonely woman with a difficult fate, who is engaged in the manufacture of illegal alcohol: many inhabitants of the island are happy to use it.

Yes, but why didn’t he say anything about the pig breeder?! In the pig farm – the whole point! He was played by the Dutchman Michiel Huisman. Quiet, not too emotional, charming, but not to say that very charismatic. Apparently, this was required according to the plot, because all the rest of the charm is the merit of this beautiful island.

I really liked how it was filmed. Well, yes, melodrama – without a doubt. But the melodrama is not false and inconsiderate. From the audience here, no one intentionally presses a tear. Yes, there are certain simplifications and the story looks somewhat varnished, despite the very painful topic that is discussed there, but the general mood, the skill of the director, an impressive picture and excellent acting – these are the melodramas I love, I really liked this one. And Bublik never woke up: he dreamed of a pool of sour cream.

The wife then said: “I kept waiting for you to get up and say that it’s a breeze without you.” But in this case, it’s a very good melodrama. Well, if I liked the melodrama, then it’s something outstanding. But I do not advise you to try the potato peel pie. Especially if there is no vigorous gin on hand according to Isola’s recipe.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie meaning

Director: Mike Newell Cast: Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Lily James, Brona Gallagher, Glen Powell, Penelope Wilton, Michiel Huisman, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay, Kit Connor

Melodrama, UK-France-USA, 2018, 124 min.

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