There are plenty of books and movies with terrible titles, and sometimes those bad titles serve as warning signs to stay away. Then there are great books and movies with terrible titles that do the works of art a disservice and might dissuade viewers from paying attention.
The obscenely long-winded title of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society falls into the latter camp. This is an absolutely delightful book that will make you laugh and cry wistfully, completely transporting you to a part of Europe you never knew you wanted to visit before but you do after reading.
That would be the Isle of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. It's current jurisdiction is tricky (sounds like it depends who you ask), but for the purposes of this book and at that time, English was the main language on the island, most of the residents belonged to the Church of England, and nearly all of the children shipped off the island before the Nazis arrived during World War II were sent to England. So make of that what you will. The Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazis throughout the war, and it's a WWII story not often told, so after finishing this book, I eagerly anticipated a film adaptation.
The book was first published in 2008, and I read it a few years back when the story first got optioned for a film that would be done by Kenneth Branagh and with Kate Winslet in the lead role. That sounded interesting but not quite who I pictured as one of the book's two heroines, English writer Juliet Ashford. The women in this book are truly wonderful, and there are quite a few male characters (even one or two who might surprise you) who are fantastic and extremely supportive of what these women do to succeed, whether it be before, during, or after the war.
Some greenlit scripts and options tend to fall by the wayside in Hollywood, but like with so many other projects these days, Netflix came to the rescue and picked up the Mike Newell-directed production, which ended up with a fantastic cast, starring Lily James as Juliet, matched by Jessica Findlay-Brown as the other heroine (and a true force to be reckoned with), Elizabeth McKenna. The rest of the cast was well chosen too, including Matthew Goode (who is and should be in everything) as Juliet's publisher, acting legend Tom Courtenay as a village elder, and Glen Powell as Juliet's very American fiancé. (Coincidentally, I watched Netflix's raved-about rom-com Set It Up right after this. I had no idea who Glen Powell was before last Friday night, but I certainly do now!)
The movie adaptation does a fine job in getting the gist of the story across. Naturally, with any book-to-film adaptation, there are going to be favorite scenes cut for time or storylines dropped. The ending is a bit different too, but the essence of how that is supposed to go down is still there. (Doing my best to avoid spoiling that, but truly an endorsement to read the book first because the book version of the ending is SO GOOD.) The camera truly loves Lily James in this movie, who evokes the 1940s glamour and sophistication of Hedy Lemarr but still retains more modern day charm and pluck. (Not to mention she has the best 1940s wardrobe since Keira Knightley in Atonement.)
But if there is one star, in the book but so much more so on screen, is Guernsey itself, with the camera's loving gaze descending on the windswept cliffs on the coast to bright green rolling hills to the charm of the portside village that will get you all the likes on your Instagram feed. The movie basically serves as a two hour tourism spot, and you'll be looking up boat tickets from either England and France by the end.