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Review: Minnie's Room, by Mollie Panter-Downes


Pages: 125
Original date of publication:
My edition: 2008
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: October 2011, Persephone subscription

In Minnie’s Room, a collection of 11 stories published between 1947 and 1965, Mollie Panter-Downes explores some of the same themes she explores in her novel, One Fine Day. In the 1940s and beyond, people were struggling to adapt to their new circumstances, because things were, indeed, dire (for example, as the introduction to this book says, “bread had been newly rationed in 1946”). It was rough going for everyone, especially the middle classes, who were hit especially hard by the imposition of increased income tax to deal with postwar shortages. So the stories in this collection reflect on a small scale the larger issues that were going on in England and the world at that time.

Although there is no immediate theme to this collection, her stories are all about people dealing with the aftermath of WWII and the effect it had on ordinary people. So although these characters don’t seem to have a lot in common in the surface, they all deal with the same kinds of larger issues. The stories deal with a variety of characters in varying situations. In the titular “Minnie’s Room, “a middle-aged live-in cook threatens to leave and find a place of her own; in “Beside the Still Waters,” a middle-aged woman returns to her ill mother’s bedside, only to come face to face with her siblings, with whom she has nothing in common; in “What Are the Wild Waves Saying?” a girl on a seaside holiday gets her first, outside glimpse of romance.

All the stories deal with change in some way and the ways in which various people cope with it. As the author got father away from the war, you start to see a shift in the stories away from the war, which makes this collection less of a cohesive unit than the stories collected in Good Evening, Mrs. Craven. As such, I didn’t enjoy this collection quite as much, but I thought the author had some interesting things to say about the passage of time. However, although I’m not a huge fan of the short story, I’ve always enjoyed the collections that Persephone reprints.

This is Persephone no. 34.


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