Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Review of Mrs. Miniver

Some correspondents of mine recommended the book Mrs. Miniver to me a while back. It proved a bit difficult to find, but finally my library had it at their main branch and had it sent over to me. (I just love libraries, don't you?)

So, I wasn't sure what to expect, because though I had seen the movie, I had been told the book was really nothing like it. This book is not even necessarily a novel. Rather, it is a bunch of short stories on a woman's life in around a year or so, I would say.

Each chapter was a separate story in and of itself, and I could read the chapters out of order and not be a bit confused. This is because the chapters were originally written as a column in The Times.

Mrs. Miniver, a book by Jan Struther, is about an upper middle class housewife pre-WWII and during the early years of WWII. It is about her thoughts, doings, and family. Mrs. Miniver is a unique person in her thoughts, and has a gift of making the everyday something special.

Sadly, as I was reading I didn't mark the things that stood out to me. So I shall just try to find them now, but I am sure some of the best snippets shall just slip past me.

"Mrs. Miniver was a fool about inanimate objects... It wasn't, with her, a question of the pathetic fallacy. She did not pretend to herself that cars had souls or even minds (though anybody, seeing the difference that can exist between one mass-produced car and another, might be excused for believing that they at least have at least some embryonic form of temperament). No, it was simply a matter of mise en scene. A car, nowadays, was such an integral part of one's life, provided the aural and visual accompaniment to so many of one's thoughts, feelings, conversations, decisions, that it had acquired at least the status of one's house. To part from it, whatever its faults, was to lose a familiar piece of background."

"Words were the only a net to catch a mood, the only sure weapon against oblivion."

"Not that he disliked school; but it had to be regarded, he found, as another life, to be approached only by way of the Styx, You died on the station platform, were reborn, not without pangs, in the train, and emerged at the other end a different person, with a different language, a different outlook, and a different scale of values. That was what the stray grown-ups you met on the holidays did not seem to understand when they asked you the fatuous and invariable question, 'How do you like school?' It was impossible to answer this properly, because the person of whom they asked it never, strictly speaking, arrived at school at all."

"She wondered why it had never occurred to her before that you cannot successfully navigate the future unless you keep always framed beside it a small clear image of the past."

And when getting gas masks with the children, the chapter ends so: "You did look a fright,' she said. "I 'ad to laugh.' One had to laugh."

I found the whole At the Dentist's chapter interesting.

I loved Aunt Hetty. "'Come along-we're having tea in the strawberry bed.' 'In the strawberry bed?' 'Yes. it's  a new idea that occurred to me last time Vin was here. You know how much better they always taste when you eat them straight off the plants? Only the drawback is, there's never any cream or sugar. So I thought, why not take the cream and sugar under the nets with us? We tried it, and it's a capital plan. I can't imagine why I never thought of it before.'"

I liked Mrs. Miniver's description of her first airplane flight in the chapter The New Dimension.

Her description of traveling struck me: "For you cannot make them understand the essential point, which is that when you went away you took the centre of the universe with you, so that the whole thing went on revolving, just as usual, round your own head."

"And it oughtn't to need a war to make us talk to each other in buses, and live simply, eat sparingly, and recover the use of our legs, and get up early enough to see the sun rise. However, it has needed one: which is about the severest criticism our civilization could have."

I also was amused when Mrs. Miniver spent her commute trying to find out what sound the new car's windshield wiper makes (beef tea), her agonies over which new calendar to get, and her musings over the strangeness of people who do not wait to catch a door someone else has already pushed open (Chapter: Christmas Shopping). I also enjoyed Three Stockings, and her musings on the way her children empty their stockings.

 Mrs. Miniver is a dear, lovely woman, and I loved her little book full of odds and ends and random thoughts. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but if you don't mind a book that is more about characters than plot, and more about everyday life than a sweeping tale of daring-do, then I recommend this to you.

Until next time then, lovely blog readers! Are you staying warm? It is freezing where I am, and I spent more than an hour today shoveling up inches and inches of snow and ice from the driveway.... brr! I think it is a tea and reading day!

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