I’m back – after a few days away, due mainly to life getting in the way and specifically to idiots viewing our house.
Anyway, the only thing keeping me semi-sane at the moment is reading and I’m behind with blogposts. A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Mrs Miniver. It’s one of those books that just seems to have always been there, probably more because of the film than the book. Anyway I realised that I had never read the book, nor even seen the film although I’ve probably seen some clips from it.
The first thing that struck me when I read the blurb on the back of this Virago is that as Jan Struther was of Scottish heritage then this one would be fine for Peggy Ann’s Read Scotland 2014 Challenge. Her father was Henry Torrens Anstruther, an Edinburgh advocate and Liberal MP for St Andrews. Jan Struther was the pen name of Joyce Anstruther, she dropped the -An- of the surname as her mother was also a writer using the name Anstruther. Jan married Anthony Maxtone Graham which is of course another weel-kent Scottish surname.
‘Mrs Miniver’ was originally a column which was published in The Times, beginning shortly before the start of World War II. She was asked to write the column by Peter Fleming, brother of Ian Fleming, it’s funny how all those bookish people are linked one way or another. Jan Struther obviously based the Miniver family on her own. Mrs Miniver’s family is described as being middle class but I think upper middle is nearer the mark as in 1939 you had to be pretty well off to be able to afford a car and indeed a cottage in Kent as well as a house in Chelsea. Nowadays you would have to be a multi-millionaire to afford that life-style of course!
Having said that Mrs Miniver did write about things which everyone was experiencing, like getting gas masks and going out in a black-out for the first time (inky), driving to Scotland ( and I must say if you’ve never done that then it’s high time that you did), visiting Highland Games, at the end of which Mrs Miniver writes: The music began to quicken intolerably for the final steps: and Mrs Miniver saw the rest through a mist. For I defy anyone, she said in self-defence, to watch a sword-dance through to the end without developing a great-grandmother called Gillespie.
First published in book form in 1939 and later in film, which I believe is quite different from the book, but Churchill credited it with doing more for the Allied cause than a flotilla of battleships. It’s a fun but informative read.