19th August 2008

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was published

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ended up being the biggest book about Guernsey since Toilers of the Sea. It’s more accessible than The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, too, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it was the first Guernsey story to get the really big cinema treatment. It was first published on 19 August 2008.

It focuses on the growing friendship between the members of a Guernsey reading group and Juliet Ashton, a London writer searching for a new story at the end of the Second World War. Quite by chance, she comes into contact with the group and gets to know them through a series of letters. Sensing that there might be enough material to write a magazine article, she visits Guernsey to meet them. She falls in love with the island and its people, and the encounter changes her life forever.

Much of the story surrounds the bravery of Elizabeth McKenna who, in the film, is played by Jessica Brown Findlay. She played Lady Sybil Crawley in three series of Downton Abbey, the period drama that was later joined by the film’s Lily James (Juliet Ashton), in which she played Lady Rose.

Guernsey, but not

Although it promotes the island, very little of the film was actually shot in Guernsey because it was logistically too difficult. Some footage was inserted for the sake of realism, but otherwise filming took place on the mainland. Devon and Cornwall stood in for Guernsey in most scenes. Bideford was used for St Peter Port. Morwenstow, Cornwall, was used for coastal scenes. Clovelly, Devon, was used for the harbour.

Filming began in March 2017 under the direction of Mike Newell. The film was financed by StudioCanal, which also handled distribution. It had been several years in the planning, with Kenneth Brannagh at one point appointed to direct it. Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway were at various times named as potential lead actors.

A posthumous publication

The book had taken even longer to come about than the film did. Author Mary Ann Shaffer had visited Guernsey around 20 years before starting work on the novel but seen very little of the island. Just as she landed, the fog came down, and she spent most of her time at Guernsey Airport reading history books.

Sadly, she didn’t live long enough to see how successful her work would become. Shaffer became ill after the manuscript had been accepted by a publisher, but before she’d finished her edits. Her niece, Annie Barrows, finished them on her behalf, earning herself a joint credit.

Mary Ann Shaffer died on 16 February 2008.


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Other events that occured in August

The Saumarez Memorial foundation stone was laid 1st
Guernsey won double-silver at the Commonwealth Games 2nd
Earl Grey was appointed Governor of Guernsey 3rd
A boy scout fell 250ft over a Torteval Cliff 4th
Jethou tenant was rescued from an up-turned boat 5th
A tomato ship and a tanker collided 6th
Human remains were found on Lihou 7th
The Beatles played at Candie Gardens 8th
The RAF bombed Guernsey Airport 9th
Guernesiais linguist Marie de Garis died 10th
Alderney experienced a total eclipse of the sun 11th
A minister was found dead at Icart Point 12th
Guernsey steam tramway is granted its concession 13th
Police found a bomb in Bluebell Wood 14th
Hanois Lighthouse’s foundation stone was laid 15th
Charlie Chaplin played in St Peter Port 16th
St Peter Port inundated with fish 17th
A royal visit… of sorts
The Rolling Stones played St Peter Port 18th
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was published 19th
Archaeologist Crystal Bennet was born 20th
Mapmaking geologist John MacCulloch died 21st
St Sampson pensioner was buried in a landslide 22nd
Trident VI ran aground on its return from Herm 23rd
Queen Victoria visited Guernsey 24th
The post-Occupation military government was disbanded 25th
Wesleyans celebrated 100 years on Guernsey 26th
Oliver Reed was jailed in Guernsey 27th
Guernsey’s Reform Law was enacted 28th
Winston Churchill visited Guernsey with his wife 29th
Philip de Saumarez was discharged as a Jurat 30th
Jersey swimmers set a round-Guernsey record 31st