Everything you need to know about the guernsey literary and potato pie society

Whether you’re a sucker for a period drama – or you don’t know your Mr. Darcy from your elbow – there’s something for everyone in The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society.

Arriving at ODEON cinemas on 20th April, director Mike Newell’s hotly tipped wartime drama is packed with sweeping romance, moustache-twirling villainy, action, intrigue, politics – and more British acting talent than you can throw a BAFTA statuette at.

Here are five facts to whet your appetite.


1. ORIGINS

“The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society?” gapes one character. “Crikey, that’s quite a mouthful.” And he’s got a point.

But let us explain. Set at the end of World War II, the film centres on struggling author Juliet Ashton (Lily James), who visits Guernsey to write about the island’s top-secret book club and their clandestine meetings during the German occupation. Oh yes – and their initiation ceremony is to serve a questionable pie made of potato peelings. Everybody clear?


2. NOT AN AVERAGE PERIOD DRAMA

Don’t expect bodiced ladies twirling around ballrooms or dashing gentlemen riding bareback through the morning mist. This is a period drama with bite and bullet-holes. Juliet might set out to chronicle the islanders’ wartime experiences – but she soon uncovers all kinds of unsavoury skulduggery, and realises that not everyone is quite as they seem.

The film embraces Juliet’s romance with dashing pig farmer Dawsey Adams (played by Game Of Thrones star Michiel Huisman). But Newell doesn’t flinch from the realities of the Nazi regime, showing a part of history that not everybody usually knows. As he explains: “It was the only bit of British territory the Germans ever took, and they weren’t going to give it back, no matter what. And it leaves this kind of shadow over the place.” 

3. THE BACKSTORY

Real-life US author Mary Ann Shaffer dreamt up the idea for The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society when she was stuck on the island during heavy fog, and killed time in the airport bookshop reading the history of the occupation.

Her growing passion snowballed into a novel, and although it had a tragic end – Shaffer herself died in 2008, two years after the book was accepted for publication – she’d surely have been thrilled to see it completed by her niece, Annie Barrows, topping The New York Times Best Seller list in 2009 and being turned into this highly anticipated film.


4. BRITAIN BEST TALENTS

There’s nothing like a period drama to lure Britain’s luvvies. Of course, there’s the aforementioned Lily James, But scan the credits and she’s in good company.

Downton Abbey alumni Matthew Goode and Jessica Brown Findlay are onboard, as Sidney Stark and Elizabeth McKenna. Keep your eyes peeled, too, for The IT Crowd and Humans’ Katherine Parkinson as  islander Isola Pribby, Calendar Girls’ Penelope Wilton as the suspicious Amelia Maugery and veteran Tom Courtenay as the wise old fisherman, Eben Ramsey.


5. FALLING IN LOVE WITH AMAZING LOCATIONS

The windswept cliffs. The rolling fields. The twinkling waters. Brought to the big screen by Zac Nicholson’s stunning cinematography, this film looks good enough to eat (unlike that potato peel pie).

With some external scenes  shot in Devon, producer Paula Mazur insists that Guernsey is the star. “This is an international movie,” she says, “which will very much be an ode – a love letter – to the island itself.

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