This year, Guernsey has a place in the spotlight, with the film adaptation of ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’, hitting the big screen this April with the lovely Lily James and Michiel Huisman (of Game of Thrones) taking the lead roles.
The book ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ was penned by Mary Ann Shaffer (and later completed by her niece, Annie Barrows) who took her inspiration from the Island’s wartime past. The wretched German Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War Two was one of the most significant periods in the Islands’ history. From June 1940 to May 1945, many families were broken up and separated, and those who remained lived under the fearsome German rule. The coastal bunkers and concrete forts peppered throughout the Island are a permanent scar on the landscape in this chapter of Guernsey’s history.
The book tells the story of the Island under German rule through a series of letters. Mary Ann travelled to Guernsey on a whim in 1980 and, when she found herself stranded due to fog at Guernsey Airport, she picked up a book about the Island’s wartime past and was hooked. The film is directed by Mike Newell who is famously known for directing the blockbuster Four Weddings and a Funeral; two of the lead characters are Lily James whose has previously starred in Cinderella, Downton Abbey and more recently Darkest Hour and Michiel Huisman of Game of Thrones.
The whacky title of the novel arises from a make-believe book club in Guernsey during the war. The club is concocted by the resourceful lead character Elizabeth McKenna, who after bumping into a German patrol after curfew with a group of merrymakers, makes the society up on the spot, rather than admit they had all been enjoying a forbidden hog roast at Amelia Maugery’s.
Many important themes are explored throughout the story, such as the magic of reading, self-discovery, meeting the ‘One’, and the human values of loyalty, courage, and standing strong in the face of danger. The novel unfolds in epistolary fashion, with the story first told in letters between protagonist Juliet Ashton, a moderately well known writer and her publisher while she is in Guernsey. They tell of the friendships Juliet forges with the Islanders based on their shared literary interests. Her initial contact, Dawsey Adams, who writes to her about the scant availability of books in Guernsey, tells Juliet the secret of the so-called book club, formed as the hasty alibi when its so-called members were caught violating the curfew. The society then brings together Islanders from all walks of life, who find solace in literature during the German Occupation. The impromptu book club embodies a theme already known to most book lovers: a good book can help us through even the most trying of times. The author’s narrative is a tapestry of light and dark, laced with humour that emanates from Elizabeth’s character.
If reading this has whet your appetite to learn more about the extraordinary true life stories of Islanders who inspired this story, then visit the places that appear in the book and walk in the footsteps of the characters themselves – you’ll feel like you are taking a step through the pages of the book itself.
Visit locations described in the book and learn more about Guernsey’s Occupation and its impact on islanders.
The Evacuation, Occupation, Liberation and the Potato Peel Pie Guided Walk is led by gold accredited guide, Gill Girard, who was guide to the film crews and director and has lots of personal family memories to share.
Contact Gill on +44 (0)7781 104094 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Cycle through the leafy lanes of St Andrew’s and St Martin’s country parishes, via the German Underground Hospital, Moulin Huet and Jerbourg on the Occupation, Liberation and Potato Peel Pie Bicycle Tour.
Contact Donkey’s Days Out on +44 (0)77781 433661 / email@example.com
Island Coachways operates two coach tours themed around the best-selling novel. ‘What is all the fuss about?’ and ‘Where fiction meets fact’- both offer the chance to learn more about this period of the Island’s history.
Contact Island Coachways on +44 (0)71481 720210 / firstname.lastname@example.org