Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther began its life as a series of newspaper columns for The Times in 1937. The columns were published in book form in 1939.
In the book Mrs. Miniver makes little observations about trivial everyday matters in a simple but engaging way. The original columns and the book were based on Jan Struther’s own experiences.
Mrs. Miniver became an enormous success upon publication. During the dark days of the Second World War the book helped raise awareness about the plight of the Europeans as the war with the Nazi Germany intensified.
The book consists of a series of loose vignettes. There is no real central story but through these miniature slices of everyday life we get to know the Miniver family and the world they inhabit.
The book is very easy to read. Its uncomplicated narrative and languid pace was really nice.
I liked reading about the everyday life of the Miniver family. Mrs. Miniver’s observations are witty and often very accurate.
I liked the strength of Mrs. Miniver and her relationship with her husband, Clem. The children Vin (eldest ‘manly’ son), Judy (‘doll loving’ only daughter) and Toby (younger son and the baby of the house) are all a bit bland and stereotypical.
I fail to see how this gentle book that makes very few actual references to the war could have helped gain sympathy for the people in Europe. There is one chapter that has the Miniver’s getting their gas masks, another one describes a war time Christmas with several refugee children staying with the Miniver family (which is personally my favourite chapter) and a few other stray references to the war here and there. That’s about it.
I haven’t seen the 1942 Greer Garson movie of the same name. But as I read the book I couldn’t picture her as Mrs. Miniver.
Jan Struther’s writing is good. Her prose is clear and witty. Like when Mrs. Miniver describes the awkwardness of inviting married friends over to dinner when you only like one half of the said couple,
“A single person is a manageable entity, whom you can either make friends with or leave alone. But half of a married couple is not exactly a whole human being: if the marriage is successful it is something a little more than that; if unsuccessful, a little less. In either case, a fresh complication is added to the already intricate ‘business of friendship: as Clem had once remarked, you might as well try to dance a tarantella with a Siamese twin.”
In Jan Struther’s world almost no one is bad or ill mannered. It’s an unreal, sanitized world but nonetheless very charming. I am sure most readers would appreciate this simple, gentle book.
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