Monday, January 28, 2013

Minnie's Room by Mollie Panter-Downes

The short stories in this volume continue the author’s piercing commentary on the social life and customs of the English middle class, which she began in her earlier volume Good Evening Mrs. Craven (and which I wrote about back in 2007). While that earlier volume covers the war years (late 1930’s to mid 1940’s), Minnie’s Room picks up in postwar London where good food was scarce, coal for heat was scarcer, and the servants had all run off. Left alone to fend for themselves in large cold houses, the postwar years were bleak indeed for middle class matrons and their long suffering husbands. How could this possibly be entertaining to read about, you might ask? But it is! As I said in my post about her earlier book, Panter-Downes writes tiny little gems that say everything in a few words. The self-absorption of these characters who cannot conceive that life has changed forever, and the complete sense of entitlement they exhibit in the face of all evidence to the contrary make for entertaining reading from the vantage point of the 21st century.

This book was published by Persephone Books, a UK publisher of neglected books by twentieth century (mostly women) authors. I’ve written about Persephone before on this blog; click on the Persephone tag in the tag cloud at right to see all my posts. I love their books but they are not so easy to get from the public library. I’ve bought several of their titles directly from their website (here is a link to their page about Minnie’s Room) and have also found them at Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin, which is where I found this one (and a few others) on a midwinter trip deep into the stacks. Ah the smell of old library books! Library lovers will know what I mean; all others may sneeze at the mere mention of it.

(Book 4, 2013)


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