Coincidentally I've just laid a fire myself but something tells me that Mrs Miniver wouldn't have had to wash the black from her hands twice, pull splinters from her t-shirt or had a dizzy spell from huffing and puffing to get things going. I digress.
Like so many others I connected Mrs Miniver with the film starring Greer Garson but this book isn't that at all. It's better. The character was created when Jan Struther was asked to write a series of articles about an ordinary woman for The Times. Despite Struther's claims that the episodes she wrote about bore no resemblance to her own family life her followers weren't buying it.
There is a poignant story about the whole family arriving at the Town Hall to be fitted for gas masks at the outbreak of war.
'...a very small child bursting into a wail of dismay on catching sight of its mother disguised in a black snout; the mother's muffled reassurances - "It's on'y Mum, duck."...'
There were equally touching stories but with a humourous touch such as the story about her daughter, Judy, choosing which doll in the shop she liked best.
"You see, it would be so awful to pick the wrong one. I mean, suppose you could have gone and bought me in the shop instead of just having me; you might have made a mistake and chose Marigold Thompson instead."
Mrs Miniver's mouth twitched. She couldn't somehow imagine herself choosing Marigold Thompson. A nice child, but pudding-faced.
"Well," she said, "I like Marigold."
"Oh, so do I. But what I mean is, she wouldn't have done for you. And what's more," pursued Judy, "Marigold's mother wouldn't have done for me. At all," she added with conviction.
Each vignette sparkles in its own way but the ones surrounding the Christmas season were timely and so charming. And some things never change...
'At intervals she tried to pretend that Christmas Day fell on the 5th of December, or alternatively, that all her friends and relations lived in South Africa and that she had to catch an early mail; but it was no use.'
There is no doubt about Jan Struther's sense of humour or that she would have been just the sort of person people gravitated towards. I don't think I've ever laughed out loud while reading an introduction before but the description of her family dressing up a mannequin to surprise unsuspecting guests in the loo was hilarious!
With headings such as London in August, A Country House Visit, On Hampstead Heath or A Drive to Scotland, Mrs Miniver is the quintessential 'lovely' book. I only wished it had four times as many pages.