RogerBW's Blog

Mrs Miniver, Jan Struther 12 January 2014

Yes, I'm talking about the book, or more accurately the collection of newspaper columns, not the film. The film is a wartime story, made as part of the Allied propaganda effort. The columns are earlier and more interesting: they start out as light-hearted domestic scenes, but the prospect of war slowly becomes apparent; Mrs Miniver (in effect the third-person narrator) gradually adapts to it, with the issue of gas-masks, the effects of blackouts, and so on. There's really nothing in the way of plot; the columns, brutally limited to about five or six paperback pages each, are essentially observations and anecdotes.

The main collection was published in 1939 shortly after the war started but before the invasion of France; the author did not write more regular columns, but did append several letters as from Mrs Miniver to a friend, which are collected in (some) later editions of the book.

It was something of a fantasy even for Struther: Mrs Miniver is happy in her marriage, money worries are essentially absent, and I suspect some people may find the tone smug. I simply found Mrs Miniver interesting, and interested, in the things and people she encountered. The book is also a fascinating portrait of a way of life which the author correctly saw would never return: for example, successful middle-class people could still just about reasonably expect to have servants, and indeed to live in Chelsea.

Some of the late letters appear to carry a deliberate change in tone, talking about the money worries of the early days of the Minivers' marriage, and the problems of small businesses in London when many of the inhabitants had left. They're still worth reading, but they feel like a facile shift on the part of the author rather than an actual change of attitude.

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  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 02:46pm on 12 January 2014

    Hmm, did this spring from the talk we had on the upcoming podcast about WW2 soap opera games?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:00pm on 12 January 2014

    Not particularly. My wife has been recommending it to me for ages, but not as a wartime book (since mostly it isn't). Though it would certainly be useful source material for such a game, either in London or in the country.

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