The movie was sort of a preview, a special deal offered by my movie club, and since it was on in a cinema in the city, over the road from where I had an appointment with my dentist an hour later, I decided to take the morning off and watch it.
I really enjoyed it. I came out of the cinema with a smile on my face, along with a bunch of other people also smiling. It hit all the spots, good acting, a variety of fun characters to engage with, gorgeous scenery — really beautiful — lots of delightful book talk, some heart-racing drama, a few teary moments, and a happy ending.
It had been quite a few years since I'd read the book, and after the movie was over I was trying to think of what they'd changed. It's inevitable that they'd have to change the story somewhat — you can't fit the richness and layering of a novel into a two hour movie. So while I was waiting for the tram (trolley car) I pulled out my trusty kindle, found my e-copy of the book and started rereading it.
For those who haven't read the book, it's written as a series of letters, to and from the heroine of the story, writer Juliet Ashton. WW2 is over and people in London are just starting to get used to peacetime. Juliet having had one successful novel behind her, is casting around for a story idea.
Her interest is sparked when she receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey (one of the Channel Islands, belonging to Britain, but closer to France.) He'd found her address in a second-hand book, and had written to ask for the address of a good bookshop in London. And that's where it all starts — his letter intrigues her, she writes back and . . .
Both the book and the movie are all about stories within stories, though the movie is simplified a bit, or maybe streamlined is a better word. It's a love story, and a slice of history, but it's also a story of how books and social contact can help people endure privation and oppression — Guernsey was occupied by the Nazis during the war— as well as an exploration of the nature of heroism. And what is important in life.
My advice, if you haven't read the book, or it's a long time since you read it (like me) is don't read it before you go to see the movie. Just sit back and let the gorgeousness of the movie wash over you. If you reread the book before you watch it, you'll be distracted by thoughts like "But it didn't happen like that in the book" and "No, that's wrong."
But it's inevitable that a movie that's an adaptation from a novel is bound to be different. So much of a novel simply cannot be shown in a two hour movie. It's like the difference between the various movie versions of Pride and Prejudice, and the TV series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth — a series being the only way one could do any justice to the novel.
But the movie is lovely, and well worth seeing. There is a fairy-tale quality about it enhanced by the glorious scenery, the intimacy of the filming and the excellent acting. A group of ladies were talking about all the actors they recognized — several from Downton Abbey and other beloved TV series — and it seemed to add to their enjoyment.
The location scenery is stunning, and I was surprised to learn later that the movie wasn't filmed on Guernsey — which understandably upset a few people. But the film-makers explained that Guernsey had changed so much since the war that it was no longer possible to make it look like is had in the 1940's. It still hasn't stopped me wanting to go to Guernsey one day and see it for myself. And I really do believe that it the locations they chose (in Devon and Cornwall) did the story justice —and conjured up the 1940's Guernsey of my imagination.
I read several reviews of the movie (after I'd seen it) a couple of whom called it "bland" or "predictable fluff". To them I say Pooh! and Bah Humbug! and Poppycock! One sneered at the idea of a pig farmer being interested in literature — why not, I ask? Sheer snobbishness, as well as some knee-jerk anti-romance dismissal. Yes, it's a romance, but that's not all it is.
This review from the Telegraph is much more like it in my opinion: Mike Newell’s adaptation of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s epistolary novel is a film you don’t spend time with so much as spend time in: every location in this irresistible romantic mystery is like a little mini-break for the soul, every costume and piece of set-dressing nibble-ably gorgeous, and every character a pleasure to keep company with, even the rotters.
Exactly. (Click on the link above to read the full review)
Here's the official movie trailer.
So, if you like gorgeous scenery, engaging characters and an uplifting story, I highly recommend you see The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society at your earliest opportunity. And then, if you haven't read it already — read the book.
Have you read or seen The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? Do you plan to see it?
or, What's the best movie you've seen lately — at the cinema or on TV?