Dawsey + Juliet

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Good morning! Rise and shine and drink some coffee because I’m about to drop many, many words for your reading pleasure. 🌞 I recently picked up “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer. Say that title ten times fast! This is the official synopsis:

“It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.”  – Goodreads

I didn’t know exactly when I bought this book until recently when I remembered showing it in a thrift store book haul on my YouTube channel in July 2018. I talk about it starting at 3:20.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxQoU0GFdWU

My local library is small, and the volunteer-run used bookstore is even smaller, literally the size of a walk-in closet. In 2018 the library underwent renovations, and the bookstore temporarily moved to an empty store in that same shopping center, which actually provided room to display more books . I was dying to visit so my mom and I checked it out during one of our used bookstore adventures. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” was one of six books I picked up that day. It caught my eye because I knew about the upcoming Netflix movie. I paid one dollar for a hardcover edition in brand new condition. Funny story: The cashier told me she didn’t enjoy the book. Why would you tell a customer that?? She did deter me a little bit, but I’m glad I didn’t give up. It sat on my shelf for two years. The premise interested me, but every time I looked at it, I was never in the right mood to open it and begin. It’s worth noting that the realistic style of the book cover is not my usual taste, which may have contributed to my hesitation; this colorful version of the cover is more up my alley. Fast forward to The Reading Rush in July 2020. One of the reading challenges was “Read a book set on a continent other than the one you live on.” I wasn’t feeling any of my choices until I opened my bureau and saw “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” sitting on my small, brown bookshelf. I decided that was the time to dive in and give it a fair shot. To start, I was very distracted and couldn’t concentrate for more than a few pages at a time. But once I focused and really immersed myself in the story, I was hooked. I almost stayed up overnight to finish it but ultimately took the smart route and finished it in two days. It received 5 stars and became one of my favorite books. SUCCESS! 😍

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Now that we’ve discussed the book, let’s talk about the Netflix adaptation. Unlike many other bookworms, I’m always up for a film version. I’d seen the two lead actors Lily James & Michiel Huisman in clips and pictures so I knew they had chemistry. Even if the movie ended up being terrible, I already shipped them as Dawsey and Juliet. If you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to watch the trailer below before moving on to my review.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP9eDmX0ow0

*Note: First you’re going to read my notes that ignore the bigger plot points involving Juliet’s relationship with Mark. Don’t worry! I’m going to end with all the juicy details and tell you how the story ends.  😉  I’m going to indicate all the MAJOR SPOILERS, but please be aware that anything I write could potentially be a SPOILER. Read at your own risk!  ⚠️

•  The book is all about pen pals, and the story is told through letters. That format works when the consumer is reading it, but as a visual medium, the film had to be different. There are still a few letters mentioned and read aloud but only that of Dawsey and Juliet in the very beginning of the movie. There are no written words exchanged between Juliet and her friends or the other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; all their interactions take place in-person. Actually, Juliet’s only friend that made the transition from book to movie is Sidney. For time purposes, I can understand why the film focuses more on the society members.

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•  I like the addition of Juliet’s landlord Mrs. Burns as a character. She adds a bit of humor as well as motherly attention. She seems to be uptight at first, complaining about the loud sound of Juliet on her typewriter. However, she’s the first person to express concern over Juliet’s mood after her return from Guernsey. Her face when she hears Juliet typing again is so sweet.

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•  For the most part, all the society members are as they should be. Dawsey is my new book boyfriend so my feelings about him are fairly obvious.  🥰  Eben is a sweetheart, and his grandson Ei is his mini me. Elizabeth McKenna is the go-getter in the group, the one with courage to stand up to the nazis. Isola Pribby is an adult version of Luna Lovegood, and I dare you to not love her. It’s impossible! Amelia is the character whose portrayal shocked me because she’s so cold at first. I’m not sure if this is the reason why, but Jane is her daughter in the movie, not Eben’s daughter. Elizabeth was Jane’s best friend and a second daughter to Amelia so Amelia’s protective of anything belonging to Elizabeth including the society. It’s worth noting that Eben could’ve been cold in the book for that same reason, but he wasn’t. I understand that she lost her husband, daughter, and Elizabeth during the war; that is a horrible burden for anyone to bear. I’m still not a fan of that creative choice, but Amelia is much more like her book self once she warms up to Juliet so that smooths out some of the edges for me.

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•  After the society is formed, there are clips of each member reading books in different spots on the island. In the midst of World War II & nazi occupation, those stories were their escape. That scene gave me chills and reminded me just how valuable books are.

•  Charlotte Stimple, the woman who gives Juliet a room for rent, is an awful person, similar to Patricia Hamilton’s portrayal of Rachel Lynde but without the redeeming qualities. Her name is different in the movie, the original being Adelaide Addison, but her personality is exactly as it should be. Horrible and wicked!

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•  I will discuss this in detail later. For now all you need to know is that Mark proposed to Juliet before she left for Guernsey, and she said yes. After she is on the island, Juliet has an interesting phone conversation with her friend and publisher Sidney about the proposal. His hesitation to congratulate her implies that he isn’t convinced Mark is the man for her. It feels like a nod to Sidney’s letters in the book disapproving of Mark and teasing Juliet about her constant mention of Dawsey. I appreciate that the film included this detail, even if the letters were combined into one phone conversation.

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•  Juliet’s reaction to Kit being half German is a great talking point. Most non-German Europeans during WWII had a fear of nazi hatred, in this case a fear of it being genetic. Despite that fear, the society raised Kit, and Juliet grew to love her like a daughter. The nazis were a manmade group of extremists who did not and do not represent the ethnically German people. Their army was filled with soldiers groomed from a young age to view certain groups of people with hatred and wipe them out. There’s a saying that kids aren’t born with hate in their heart, it’s taught to them. This is a prime example, sick and twisted and something to ponder.

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•  The conversation about Christian’s death between Amelia and Juliet is though-provoking. Amelia comments that his death is just like that of her husband; they both drowned at sea. There are two sides to every war, but in death all men are the same.

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•  I love the scene when Juliet puts Charlotte in her place after catching her snooping around her rented room. I also love that she leaves and becomes Isola’s housemate because it gives us a closer look at their budding friendship. During their first night as roomies, Isola inquires about Mark’s reading habits. Juliet never answers because Mr. Playboy doesn’t share her passion for books. Another ❌for Mark and another ✔️for Dawsey!

•  The scene in Dawsey’s bedroom is HOT, and that sounds incredibly inappropriate unless you watch the scene. The intimacy and chemistry is scalding without them even touching one another. I already need a drink of cold water! 🥵

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O18EdP3ziQw

*Note: Those blue pieces of paper inside the book are Juliet’s letters to Dawsey. HE SAVED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HER LETTERS! I’M YELLING BECAUSE THAT’S INCREDIBLY ROMANTIC!!  💌

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•  When Eli was evacuated off the island, Elizabeth gave him her father’s Great War medal, saying it would give him courage. When Dawsey has to tell Kit that her mom is dead, Eli gives him the medal. It can read as a gift of courage for Dawsey or Kit; either way that gesture is too precious! 😭

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•  Let’s add this to the list of reasons why I hate Mark Reynolds: He stops Juliet from comforting Amelia when the society finds out about Elizabeth’s death. I know he doesn’t have a relationship with the society, but he lacks empathy, as though he is above and they are beneath.  😡

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•  You know what’s incredibly beautiful? Dawsey immediately understanding Juliet’s hidden message to him in her letter to the society with her manuscript about their book club. The message references their conversation in the bar when she tells him that his letters made her sense she’d met someone who already understood her. GET MARRIED ALREADY!

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The biggest issues I had with the film adaptation were the changes made to Juliet & Mark’s relationship. The book timeline is as follows: Juliet is charmed by Mark, and he eventually proposes. She doesn’t accept right away, leaving for Guernsey to meet the literary society. She connects with the island and people and never seems like she’s planning to leave. Mark grows impatient waiting for her and travels to Guernsey. His arrogance is the final straw, and she ends their relationship. Through the misadventures of amateur detective Isola, Juliet finds out that Dawsey reciprocates her love and proposes to him. “Would you like to marry me? . . . I’m in love with you, so I thought I’d ask.” Sweet, precious, adorable Dawsey answers “My God, yes!” and proceeds to sprain his ankle climbing down the ladder he was on. Juliet writes of her upcoming wedding to Sidney, ending with a hilarious postscript about good old Ms. Adelaide Addison: “P.S. I ran into Adelaide Addison in St. Peter Port today. By way of congratulations, she said ‘I hear you and that pig-farmer are going to regularize your connection. Praise the Lord!'”  😂 😂 😂

This is the movie timeline: Everything is the same until Mark proposes in front of the boat headed to Guernsey, and Juliet says yes. Just like the book, she’s enchanted by the island and people. However, she rents a room, and her stay feels temporary. Mark is annoyed by her absence and makes the trip to Guernsey. They have a fight, but she sticks by her answer to his marriage proposal. She accompanies him back to London with no implication that she’s coming back. The goodbye is very emotional, and it weighs her down. Not long after they arrive back home, she gives back the ring and ends their relationship. She plans to return to Guernsey but runs into Dawsey at the dock. He made the trip to tell her how he feels. Before he can get very far, she proposes, and he accepts, both using the same beautiful dialogue from the book. They return to Guernsey, get married, and live happily ever after.

The movie timeline isn’t terrible, but it removes aspects of the book that I love. Obviously Juliet knew very little about Dawsey’s age and appearance with only letters as reference, but I think their correspondence fed her doubts about Mark being her soulmate. She never says yes to his marriage proposal because she never wants to say yes. Mark’s attitude on Guernsey is the last straw. He doesn’t care about why she’s there or what she’s writing about. He’s annoyed by little Kit’s presence and arrogantly assumes Juliet wants to be his wife. She rejects him once and for all, telling him she never wants to se him again. She describes herself as free!

I don’t like that “movie Juliet” goes along with the Mark charade for so long, even leaving Guernsey for him. Definitely not a positive for me, but not a dealbreaker either. The proposal in the book would’ve been adorable onscreen, but the dock proposal isn’t a horrible replacement. Mark proposed to Juliet on the dock before she left for Guernsey, and then Juliet proposed to Dawsey on that same dock where she was boarding a boat to go back to Guernsey. I love that parallel! Almost all is forgiven by me thanks to the final scene. Juliet is seen walking out of the cottage once owned by Elizabeth McKenna, her wedding ring just visible. She walks over and lies down beside Dawsey who’s reading a Charles Lamb book to Kit, Lamb being the author of the book that put Juliet’s address in his hands. The ensuing hand choreography and looks of true love are MAGIC. One of the best endings to a period romance film! 😍

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•  I read a review that pointed out the differences between Mark and Dawsey, and I love the contrast (I really wish I had saved the blog name). This is a mix of the previously mentioned blog post and my own thoughts: Mark filled Juliet’s apartment building with flowers. When he visited Guernsey, he brought a bouquet from London and mentioned that Guernsey needed a proper florist. RUDE! Dawsey gave her a small, purple bouquet picked from the side of an island road the first time they met. Life with Mark is a constant string of evening parties, lots of drinking and dancing. Life with Dawsey is days of laughter while playing with Kit and tending pigs; don’t forget about the books! Mark proposes with an engagement ring the size of a boulder which Juliet is hesitant to wear while walking around Guernsey. Dawsey proposes with a simple wedding band which is absolutely stunning in the final scene because the newlyweds look so in love, and that is more than enough for Juliet. I’m sure there’s more to be compared between the two, but you get the picture. *sigh* Perfection!

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•  At the end of the movie, the credits roll while audio clips from a society meeting play. I love hearing those now familiar voices read aloud from books and debate characters and plot points. Dawsey and Juliet are a beautiful part of the book and film, but the literary society is the true heart of the story. If they hadn’t formed, Dawsey would’ve never found the Charles Lamb book. If he’d never found the Charles Lamb book, he would’ve never acquired Juliet’s address and written that first letter. Without that first letter, Juliet would’ve never known about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Without knowing about the society, she would’ve never traveled to Guernsey to meet all of them, Dawsey included, in person. That was the best way to end the movie, listening to the society members do what they do best: Talk about books!

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📖  Let’s go back to what I said earlier: I paid one dollar for a hardcover edition of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” in brand new condition. I opened the book two years later, & it became a new favorite. What books give readers is priceless! 📚 

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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