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I bought a copy of this 1940 edition of Mrs. Miniver about a year ago, but only chose to read it after I read that it is one of the books that most inspires Jane Brocket (in her book The Gentle Art of Domesticity ). The book is constructed of short, comic chapters that were originally published as newspaper articles in The Times in the late ’30’s as war was approaching. Most of the chapters present a domestic scene, episodes concerning Mrs. Miniver’s housekeeping, children or husband, but there are some travel narratives also and a very chilling scene describing the household getting fitted for gas masks.

The writing is formal, a bit distant, but humorous and warm. Mrs. Miniver embodies the brave, cheerful woman who carries on in the face of an unknown future and was a symbol during the war, especially after the film was released. I think it is fascinating that President Roosevelt rushed the film into US theaters in 1942, that Americans were very taken with the book and that it was a huge success here – because I didn’t have a personal connection to the writing myself. I thought it was enjoyable, but not as powerful as it must have been at the time it was published.

I recently recorded the film and tried to watch it a few days after I finished reading Mrs. Miniver, but I couldn’t believe how different the film is from the book and had to stop watching. Have you read or watched Mrs. Miniver? If you’ve done both, which do you prefer – the book or the film?

12 Comments

  1. I’ve seen the film, and while I love Greer Garson and Teresa Wright, I thought it was a little too much – though I could see its appeal for people at the time. But I’ve always meant to read the book, and I regret not buying a copy I came across at Half Price Books (despite my massive TBR stacks, it always seems to be the books I don’t buy that I regret!)

    • You’re bound to come across another copy! It is a good book, just not as stirring as I’d imagined from its importance during that time.

  2. Interesting that the film is so different, is it more gritty and less humorous? I’ve heard of the book/film but not read it. I suppose if they’re so different you can like each on it’s own merit, but it’s hard to feel favourable towards a film that doesn’t reflect the book if you liked the book so much.

    • I’m sure I will like the film at some point because I love Greer Garson, but the tone of the film was just so different from the book – the film is very earnest and the book is not at all.

  3. Joan Hunter Dunn

    Oh I really want to read this. Lucky you finding it.

  4. I’ve never seen the film but I do have the book – in a green Virago edition. It’s not calling too loudly, but I will get to it some day.

    • Oh, I didn’t know there was a Virago edition of this, but it makes sense that there is. It is a really lovely document of domesticity in the late ’30’s and has some beautiful passages that are very evocative – worth a read.

  5. I’ve read it. Liked it but didn’t love it – I think I prefer the Provincial Lady. I did like the opening chapter though, where she writes about the astringent scent of chrysanthemums and the new library book on the table.

    • The opening chapter is pretty wonderful, but the rest of the book doesn’t quite live up to that tone. I’ve been slowly reading the Provincial Lady and I much prefer her, too – so much more human and sympathetic.

  6. It sounds very different from the film ,I do love old cloth covers ,all the best stu

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