As well as having a preposterously elongated title, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is a funny, sweet and at times truly sad historical romantic comedy drama.
Set in 1946, it revolves around Lily James’ Juliet Ashton, a London based writer who heads to the island of Guernsey after exchanging various letters with the titular reading group. When she finally heads there she forges a strong bond with its members, especially Michiel Huisman's Dawsey, despite the fact she is engaged to American War hero Mark Reynolds, played by Glen Powell.
But just how real is “The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society”?
I recently had the chance to speak to Powell, who was unable to go into specifics about the possible events that inspired the film, but did reveal how Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ 2008 novel inspired the film.
“Yes, it was based on a book. We actually got to go to the island of Guernsey, all of us, and talk to a lot of the locals and they have sort of a museum that memorializes this period and history, from when they were occupied by the Nazis.”
“Yeah, it is a very quick read. It is an epistolary novel. If you can’t read that prior to shooting the movie you are a very slow reader. You can read it in a couple of hours.”
“But it is great. It is very heartfelt. My character is very absent from the book. But what is pretty cool is that with that sort of structure for a movie, per a book, there is a lot of emotion. Because sometimes it is just more beholden to stay close to the novel, when it comes to perspective and point of view. “
Ultimately, “The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society” is based on the true events and facts of what happened to the tiny island during World War II, when, alongside the other Channel Islands, Guernsey was invaded and then occupied by the Nazis.
However, its characters are all fictional, although the Visit Guernsey website insists “some probably took inspiration from real people in the Channel Islands.”
In fact, the website even reveals that one character and a certain part of the plot of the film seems to have been especially inspired by a true story.
There are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for “The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society,” so please only read ahead if you have seen the film, which is now available on Netflix.
“Elizabeth’s character in particular seems to draw inspiration from a true story,” the website explains.
“Marie Ozanne was a Guernsey woman who bravely stood up to the occupying forces during the Occupation, as she defied their banning of the Salvation Army of which she was a member, and also protested against their treatment of slave laborers.”
“Like Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), Marie was imprisoned and sadly died in 1943. She is commemorated with a blue plaque memorial on the wall of her former home.”
“Two Islander's bravely risked their lives by hiding livestock from the increasingly hungry German soldiers: Miriam Milbourne saved a rare breed of Golden Guernsey goats whilst Violet Carey - perhaps the inspiration for Dawsey (Michiel Huisman) - kept a pig hidden away!”