Book vs. Movie: ‘Guernsey’ provides much needed comfort

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Bianca McCarty, Co-editor

We all have movies that bring that feel like coming home. They comfort us in times of need, wrapping us in the embrace of familiarity. I discovered my “comfort movie” in January of 2018 when Netflix released The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’ve always been a sucker for World War 2 era stories, strong-willed heroines, and dark haired love interests so, this movie gave me everything I wanted. In all honesty, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it. Naturally, I was ecstatic when I found out it is based off a book.

Before getting into my thoughts on both the book and the movie, I warn of potential spoilers. If you wish to read the book, or watch the movie completely spoiler free, stop reading here.

The movie follows our protagonist, Juliet Ashton, an author in London, England post-World War Two. Juliet is recently engaged to a rich and handsome American, Mark Reynolds, yet she is unfulfilled in her shallow life. Juliet’s yearning for excitement comes in the form of a letter from Dawsey Adams, a pig farmer on the island of Guernsey. After striking up a friendship with Dawsey and other Society members, Juliet abandons London and her fiancé for the tiny island of Guernsey. Juliet sees a story in Guernsey, within the Society, as well as the German occupation during the war. Though Juliet is truly well intentioned, she struggles to dig up information on both the Society and the occupation. After all, she is an outsider coming into a very tight-nit community.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie is just adorable; there’s no other way to put it. Dawsey Adams and Juliet’s romance is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. They compliment each other perfectly, and the building tension was incredibly well written. Dawsey and Juliet’s relationship serves as the perfect foil to Juliet’s relationship with Mark Reynolds. While Mark is pushy and arrogant, Dawsey is gentle and kind. With Dawsey, Juliet is able to tradition on its head by asking Dawsey to marry her, instead of the other way around. “Would you like to marry me?” she says. “I’m in love with you, so I thought I’d ask.”

Every character stands on their own, but together they are even stronger. Throughout the course of the movie, the audience gets to know these characters, and become a member of the Society themselves. And for those of us looking for motivation to write, this movie is the perfect inspiration. Juliet has such a love for her craft that it’s contagious.

With all these feel-good elements, the film still manages to capture life in England immediately after World War Two. Juliet deals with lingering trauma of the London bombings throughout the story, and the island of Guernsey is still struggling to get back on its feet after the occupation. Though the bombing and shooting is over, for most of Europe, the war isn’t. The theme of the movie is clear: People are good in hard times.

The novel from which the film is based carries the same warmth and life. I read it during the first week of school, and it provided me much comfort in that hectic time.

Though the novel shares the same atmosphere as the movie, upon reading the book I realized that many plot details had been tweaked to better fit the screen. The original Guernsey Literary Society consisted of more members than the four from the movie, and Juliet’s friends from London were cut from the film. A few character traits were switched around for the sake of the story and the create conflict. Juliet and Dawsey’s novel romance is far less dramatic than that of the film, but still very adorable.

The novel is written in the form of letters, making it easy to hop in and out of. It was very interesting to hear what each character thought in their own words, and often see one event from multiple point of views. The novel is like a stroll in the park with it’s slow, meandering plot.

It’s a surprise to me too, but I must be honest: I enjoyed the movie more than the book.

I chalk this up primarily to the fact that I saw the movie first, and that Micheal Huisman’s Dawsey Adams was incredibly charming.