Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mrs. Miniver

I can't really consider the following to be 'Life After Betty' but I do think it makes a wonderful Betty addendum:

I picked up a book last year (for a dollar at Goodwill, of course) that I thought would be something dreary and earnest. It sat there on my bookshelf for months like a vitamin or an appointment to go to the gym or a visit to the dentist. It reminded me of flossing teeth--it should be done, it ought to be done and I didn't expect any joy in doing it. Ugh. What drudgery. There it was waiting for me, suffering under the soft bigotry of low expectations. Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther (see left):

"Why don't you like Marigold's mother?" asked Mrs. Miniver.[of her young daughter] "She's always very kind to you. And she's frightfully fond of children."
"Oh, I know. She told me so. But you see, when people are frightfully fond of children you never know whether they really like you or not, do you?"
"Mrs. Miniver felt a quick glow of sympathy. It was exactly what she had so often thought about the boringness of the sort of man who "likes women"
"And besides," Judy went on, "she makes such a Thing about everything, if you know what I mean."
Mrs. Miniver knew only too well. She had been at school with Marigold's mother.

Needless to say it took forever to get through as I kept constantly stopping and reading bits to my Mijnheer or, much worse, laughing out loud and not explaining myself. Written during WWII, I imagine that The Great Betty was familiar with the book and some passages sound like they've been cribbed from A Gentle Awakening or Heaven Around the Corner. The book is available online (here) It's chock-a-block with delightful gems like these:

"Professor Badgecumbe has just telephoned to say that he is very sorry indeed, but he can't get back for another twenty minutes." Behind his secretary's air of apology crouched a protecting tigress, ready to spring if Mrs. Miniver showed the least sign of vexation. To Miss Perrin, Badger was a god, and luncheon guests whom he kept waiting had no right whatever to complain. The privilege of knowing him ought to be enough for them."

Don't make the mistake of thinking that it has a plot. It doesn't. It's just a series of observations on British home front life and it opens a door on the kind of England that Betty was familiar with. My favorite line, that I use over and over is, "Scotland wins".

"Mrs. Adie paused at the door, tray in hand"
"Ay," she said. "This is going to be a queer kind of Christmas for the bairns, with their Daddy away."
"I dare say he'll get leave," said Mrs. Miniver hopefully"
"Mebbe ay, mebbe no." Mrs. Adie was not one to encourage wishful thinking. "To say nothing," she added, "of having ten bairns in the house, instead of three. My! it'll take me back to when I was a wean myself"
"Why, there weren't ten of you, were there?"
"Thirteen," said Mrs. Adie, wearing the particular expression that Clem always called "Scotland Wins."