The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a charming, evocative and mysterious love story set in beautiful scenery (actually filmed in Devon and Bristol rather than on the island). It begins with Juliet Ashton (Lily James), a writer living amongst the rubble of post-war London. She feels suffocated by the glamorous American suitor who drowns her in champagne and roses. She is tired of the constant pressure to please her readers, and her publisher. She wants to find her own heart and express her own voice.
When she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), describing the rather oddly named book club in Guernsey, she feels immediately drawn to his simple passion for literature. Eventually, she flies over to write a story about this strange band of book lovers. There, she discovers the origins of the group. During the wartime occupation, the locals were almost starved to death by the Nazis, who requisitioned their produce, leaving them to survive mostly on potatoes. However, one farmer had secretly reared a pig which this little group then gathered to roast and eat. Intoxicated by their conversation and camaraderie as much as by their home-brew, they happily made their way home but were spotted by soldiers who demanded to know why they were out after curfew. The quick-thinking Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay) invented the book club to explain their antics and consequently they continued to gather regularly to discuss literature and eat potato peel pie.
However, Juliet finds that Elizabeth is no longer on Guernsey, and her story seems to cast a dark shadow over the group, who are now bonded together by a common experience of suffering as much as by a common love for books. As Juliet gradually uncovers the secrets that hold the group together, she finds a story of commitment and self-sacrifice, a tale of protection and care for the innocent. Elizabeth, had chosen to follow her ideals by showing compassion to the innocent and may have paid the ultimate price. Dawsey is left providing for a vulnerable child until her birth parents return.
The experience changes Juliet in a way that she did not expect. She discovers the opportunity to find her heart and express her voice. But will she leave the security of her life in London, where champagne and roses beckon, in order to follow an unconventional, but more fulfilling, adventure in Guernsey?
This intellectually engaging, and emotionally immersive, film calls us to consider how we make decisions about our own future. Do we, like Juliet, need to find our own heart and express our own voice? Do we, like Dawsey, need to refocus on providing care for the vulnerable? Or even, like Elizabeth, to give up everything for what we believe is right?
Carol Pollard is co-founder of EthosEducation.org and EthosMedia.org which provide free downloadable resources to help school pupils and the general public to explore spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues through the latest films.
This article was first published in Families First magazine.