A compelling tale of love and self-discovery

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

(M) Lily James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman

Despite the overwhelming title, this heart-warming tale of love, loyalty and passion for reading almost never made it to print. Before the novel’s release in 2008, author Mary Ann Shaffer’s editor had asked for a few re-writes. While the pages were still in the hands of the publisher, Ms Shaffer was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, her niece Anne Burrows was an accomplished children’s author and was able to complete the changes, thus becoming a co-author on the final manuscript. The completion of the book allowed Mary Ann Shaffer to accomplish her life-long dream of publishing a successful novel. Sadly, Ms Shaffer died during the same year of the book’s publication and didn’t get to bask in her work’s popularity.

The drama behind the creation of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society almost rivals the wonderful story based on the island off the coast of Normandy. The story follows a small group of book lovers who had formed their literary society as a means of surviving the German occupation during WWII had kept meeting after the war was over. Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) had reached out to author Juliet Ashton (Lily James) about one of the books the Society had read and about their little community of readers. The group’s story inspired the young author to visit the small fellowship, in an inspiring literary journey while unearthing the group’s emotions.

This fictionalised portrayal of actual historical events makes for one of the most compelling cinematic experiences this year. Mary Ann Shaffer’s story is one of the most beautiful tales of love, self-discovery and courage to come along in years. Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) has captured the heart of this journey, from the charm of the island village to the loving atmosphere of the literary society to the alluring chemistry between the lead actors. It is hard to find fault with this film. Newell manages to intricately balance elements of the historical implications of the Nazi occupation and the impacts of books, all the while maintaining the romantic tension of four individual involved in that aspect of the story.

Each character of the group and the film serves a purpose. It is a talent-rich atmosphere with the veteran supporting cast of Matthew Goode, Penelope Wilton and Tom Courtenay along with the standout performance by Jessica Brown Findlay. Even with the strength of the cast, it comes down to Lily James and Michiel Huisman carrying this project. They are able to show the complexities of a love story and every element that surrounds their relationship. Audiences will fall in love with the story, as well as the desire to pick up a book and inevitably cause Guernsey to have a new influx of tourism.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society does contain mature themes, but the delicate and refreshing treatment of the novel makes this a film that is accessible to all ages. A cinematic gem unlike anything else this year that should be celebrated by audiences and manages to deliver a well-told story of courage and love that has not been seen for some time.

Looking Deeper

When it comes to romance, the God of the Bible does not usually come to mind as a purveyor of love. Most people inside and outside the Christian faith may think that discovering real romance can occur outside the Bible. It is an unfortunate misconception because as the Creator and God of love, it can be said that romance was his idea, too.

From the original creation account to the wisdom literature of the Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Solomon, the word pictures and phrases make for an atmosphere for romance. Like any relationship, God does set parameters for this love connection, but within this playground, the Creator of romance allows for beautiful atmosphere for love.

  1. What does the Bible have to say about romance?  (Proverbs 5:18-19, Song of Solomon)
  2. Where can we find real love, hope and joy in this broken world? (Acts 24:14-16, Romans 8:24)

 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger.




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