Friday, September 3, 2010

Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther

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 After all, a woman who unabashedly loves her children, husband and home is considered “outdated”.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.)

7 comments:

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Hmmm. I always loved those two movies, and now I think I need to read the book! :-) Even if the book and movies are totally different, this book sounds like one I'd really enjoy.

Sherry said...

I'd like to read this book, but I haven't managed to find a copy yet. When I do, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. The movie was one of the best propaganda pieces, in a good cause, ever made.

ruthhill74 said...

I had no idea this was a book! I have added it to my list.

GretchenJoanna said...

Thank you! I remember liking the movie, and you do make me want to find the book. Something old fashioned in that way is welcome.

S. Mehrens said...

Good review. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

Vintage Reading said...

Oh, I've just read this, too. I'm not familiar with the film though. I liked the chapter where she bought a diary and the end of the holidays. Very charming.

Carrie said...

I LOVE this book! When Sarah read it and reviewed it, it made me want to go and read it again. Now your review is prompting me to do so again. Ahhhh, TIME! I somehow need more of it!