Monday, January 5, 2009
During the holidays I read through the short stories in this wonderful collection by Mollie Panter-Downes. All twenty-one stories appeared in The New Yorker between October 1939 and December 1944. Rather than tell the soldier's story she tells of the conflict that women faced in their daily lives of being left behind. The title story is about a mistress whose lover receives a commission in a mechanised regiment. Their weekly dinners come to an end as do his letters. She finally resorts to making a phone call to His Wife to ascertain whether there has been any news. The realization comes to her that she will never be the one to be informed of any details regarding the man she loves. The Danger is a story about a couple that have taken in as evacuees, a family that prove to be less than desirable house guests. After imposing for years, The Rudds finally pack up their kids and leave. Bliss is short lived when a young mother turns up looking for a place to stay. Should Mrs Dudley do the patriotic thing and help out or has she sacrificed enough. These stories are so well written that you have these vignettes playing in your head and in three pages there's a whole new set of characters. Mollie Panter-Downes was a London correspondent for an American public that couldn't get enough of the British war experience. She wrote about the trivial, ordinary things that happened to ordinary people during an extraordinary time and was one of the best in her field. She died on January 22, 1997 aged 90 leaving behind her husband of 70 years. That is a story in itself I should think.