As a fan of classic movies I was only familiar with the film version of Mrs. Miniver. I didn’t know there was a book by this title until I read about it here. So I was glad to get a copy through PBS.
From the opening pages you know you are reading a book from a different era. After all, a woman who unabashedly loves her children, husband and home is considered “outdated”. But those are the qualities that make Caroline Miniver irresistibly charming.
This is not a novel, but a string of vignettes. They describe simple activities in the life of an English woman in the days leading up to WWII. The writing is lovely. (“It was a Wedgewood day, with white clouds delicately modeled in relief against a sky of pale pure blue”.) And the book is chock full of gentle philosophizing:
About once a year Clem rather ruefully suggested, and Mrs. Miniver reluctantly agreed, that it was about time they asked the Lane-Pontifexes to dinner. There was nothing really the matter with them. They were quite nice, intelligent, decent people; she was personable, and he was well-informed: yet for some mysterious reason one’s heart sank…
(Later as Mrs. Miniver is interviewing a woman to help with the dinner party, she immediately feels a kinship to her. ) Mrs. Miniver liked her more and more, recognizing in her that most endearing of qualities, an abundant zest for life. It was rare, that zest, and it bore no relation to age, class, creed, moral worth, or intellectual ability. It was an accidental gift, like blue eyes or a double-jointed thumb; impossible to acquire, and almost impossible, thank heaven, to lose. To be completely without it was the worst lack of all – and it dawned on her in a flash that that was what was the matter with the Lane-Pontifexes. (p. 49 & 50)
The book is full of pleasant insights into life and relationships and, frankly, I was sorry to see it end.
(By the way, the movie bears little resemblance to the book, but I think they were spot on when they chose Greer Garson for the role. She definitely exudes the charm of Mrs. M.)