Skip to main content

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.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…