Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther


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?