Wednesday, 25 July 2012



I'm not sure what took me so long. I've been waiting and waiting for Mrs Miniver to turn up on daytime television, so I could abandon all pretence at being responsibly self-employed and put the kettle on ...
But she has never once turned up on those afternoons when I am so easily tempted to down tools for an old-fashioned movie.
But for heaven's sake ... the DVD was only £2 on Amazon.
I was so sure that I'd seen Mrs Miniver once before, years ago - but now I'm wondering if what I saw previously was the sequel The Miniver Story. (I was so convinced that Mrs M died.)
Who could resist lovely Greer Garson and her quizzical eyebrows? And those amazing false eyelashes. Well, Jan Struther could, apparently, and thought she was 'so damn ladylike.'
And it's hard not to shout at the television when you're introduced to Mrs M's strapping all-American son. Please ... couldn't they at least have given him an English haircut? (It does seem a bit creepy that Greer Garson married him the following year.)
It's not so much a wallow as a fascinating piece of wartime propaganda - with an appeal for cash at the end. And it's absolutely nothing like the book.

But how it must have tugged American hearts, no wonder Churchill loved it  ... from Mrs Miniver quaking in the bomb shelter, to Clem coming back exhausted from Dunkirk, the feisty little fiancée who dies in Mrs M's arms, the rousing sermon in the bombed-out church.

Rachel's review of the book reminded me that I'd never read Jan Struther's less well-known collection essays Try Anything Twice. I thought it would be just the thing for a hot, sticky afternoon after rather too much Virginia Woolf recently.
But although I could detect glimmers of a prototype Mrs Miniver, there's very little of her charm in this collection, and it all seemed rather laboured. And without a leavening of Mrs M's charm and joie de vivre, the snobbishness rather rankled.

Another 1p bargain from Amazon (rather more than slightly-foxed) arrived just in time to slip into my bag for a weekend by the sea. This was Wilfred and Eileen, by Jonathan Smith; a very slim novella, from 1976,  that is due to be republished by Persephone in 2014. I wanted to love it but I couldn't help thinking that it would have worked much better on television. (It was a BBC serial back in the early 80s, although I don't recall watching it. Probably because in those days I was rarely home from work before midnight.)
Wilfred meets Eileen in 1913 during his last days at Cambridge, before he starts training to be a surgeon. Their families don't approve and they marry in secret. It is substantially a true story and dedicated to the daughters of the real Wilfred and Eileen. But maybe because it seemed neither one thing nor the other, it didn't leap off the page as a novel, and there was too much missing from the biographical story. All the Persephone ingredients are there, but the recipe didn't work for me.

11 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

I thought that I had seen the film also but reading about it on Wiki I must have confused it with something else.

mary said...

I'm sure what I saw must have been The Miniver Story, Toffeeapple. I think she had a mildly romantic friendship with an American officer, and then she has to break the news to Clem that she's dying. The war has taken it out of her. Possibly the strain of having to make her own tea in the mornings. As ever, it takes a heart of stone not to laugh.

bookssnob said...

Mary you do make me laugh! Poor old Mrs Miniver.

I saw a little clip of it on youtube and was very upset at the American Clem...could they really not have had a British actor?! I will watch it though - especially as it's only £2!

Funny about Wilfred and Eileen - I put it in my shopping basket for the next time I order something after it was mentioned on the Persephone Post. I'm even more intrigued about it now! Turns out the author was head of the English dept for several years in a school right next to the one I'm going to be teaching at...and he's also written a very good book about education. A discovery indeed!

Lucille said...

Would this be a good moment to ask you about your blog name? I was convinced your own name must be Judy.

Lucille said...

PS The real Mrs Miniver by Ysenda Maxtone Graham makes very interesting reading.

Cait O'Connor said...

I must seek out this film. I must have seen it years ago?

mary said...

Rachel, as I was reading Wilfred and Eileen, I thought you might enjoy it more than I did.

Lucille, it would make more sense if I were a Judy - but I'm not. The blog name wasn't thought out. I was tinkering, wondering how people started blogs - and to my surprise, it was so easy that I had one before I knew what I was doing. And Mrs Miniver's Daughter popped into my head. There was no real reason for it.

Cait, I did enjoy it, just not in the same way as the book.

Darlene said...

I'm glad that I didn't know Greer married the man who played her son in the film. It would have been a case of 'chemistry alert' the whole time!

'...the strain of having to make her own tea in the mornings.' Priceless, I love it!

mary said...

Darlene, I didn't realise until after I'd seen it. But maybe I did pick up on some chemistry - because as soon as I saw him, I took against him. At the time I put it down to bad haircut and bad casting.
Then I got distracted by Mrs M's far too American home. They couldn't even leave her name alone and turned her into a Kay.

A Trifle Rushed said...

Oh! I must get it, I think I watched at boarding school, just the kind of film the nuns would have thought suitable, one of them would hire movies and the whole school squashed into the small hall, it was usually 'The Song of Bernadette' or something with a good faithful message', but I'm sure Mrs Miniver was also one we watched.
I would imagine they used an American actor as by that stage most suitable Brits would actually be a little to busy with the war to dash out to Holywood.

mary said...

Jude, I had the same nuns. It was either Song of Bernadette or The Sound of Music. But only on feastdays.