I’ll admit The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (henceforth known simply as Guernsey because that is the longest title ever and I don’t want to type it again) was not on my radar. And then the movie came out on Netflix and I was immediately intrigued. I mean, a historical movie starring Lily James and
Daario Naharis Michiel Huisman? I need it. And like any movie adapted from a book, I knew I needed to read the book first. What I wasn’t expecting was that I would love the book so much all I wanted to do was rush home immediately and watch the movie. So, I decided to review both today!
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.
It’s no secret I love novels set during or around WWII, especially in England (I’m an anglophile, what can I say?). Guernsey is exactly that and more. It’s a wonderful novel that illustrates the hardships ordinary citizens dealt with during the war, but it’s also a lovely, warm, and fuzzy love story. I really appreciated how well this book showed how hard it was to just do normal things while the rest of the world was fighting each other. Yes, similar events are currently going on in the world, but when was the last time any of us knew someone whose apartment was destroyed by a bomb? It’s not quite as close to home for most of us, and reading stories like this is a great reminder of what it once was like, and what it is still like for people in other parts of the world. That part of the story really touched me, and it was easily one of my favorite aspects of the book.
But the highlight of this book was by far the characters. I’m amazed at how much depth they were all able to have in a book told through letters. I felt like I knew every single one of them, like I was a part of their society. And I hated having to leave it. They were all wonderful and unique and I really, truly loved every single one of them. Discovering and getting to know them as the story went on was such a great experience. I don’t want to play favorites, because they’re all great, but Dawsey might be my favorite. (He is.)
While I truly loved this story, and how it was told, there are a few minor things that kept Guernsey from being a five-star read for me. Unfortunately, Mary Ann Shaffer passed away before completing the book, so that might be why this book felt a bit incomplete to me. Her niece finished it before publication, but it just felt like there was something missing. I felt like the main part of the story could have started a bit sooner, and I thought the ending was a bit too abrupt (even though it contains one of my favorite lines ever). I think I just wanted more of the story, and it wasn’t there. But that’s really my only complaint about this book, and it’s not the end of the world.
As for the adaptation, I thought they did a really great job. Obviously, a few things were changed – it’s hard to make a movie out of letters. I do think the changes they made worked really well, and I was really happy with how they told the story. Honestly, they kept my favorite line, and that was kind of all I cared about. This feels like the kind of movie I can turn to whenever I’m having a bad day. BUT, it was a little bit too long and kind of slow. I felt like it could have been less drawn out in certain parts. I watched it after a long work day, and barely made it through without falling asleep – no fault of the movie, I’m just turning into an old person who passes out at like 8:30 every day. But it was a good movie. I would definitely recommend reading the book first, but it is worth watching if you’re looking for a good movie.
★★★★☆ – I am so glad I read Guernsey! It was a really enjoyable story that had a lot of depth. It’s a great historical fiction novel, and I love that it was told through letters – epistolary novels are always interesting when they’re done well. If you enjoy historical fiction, I would highly recommend this one. Just know you will want to immediately watch the movie after you’re done.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is available in stores now – pick up your copy on Amazon or in Target.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Guernsey as one of your two free books.
This book was generously provided to me by Random House. All opinions are my own.
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