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The Real Mrs Miniver by Ysenda…

The Real Mrs Miniver

by Ysenda Maxtone-Graham

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I haven’t seen the film nor have I read the book on which it was based. In October 1939, a collection of articles from the London’s The Times saw the light after two years of publication and faithful following from the newspaper’s readers. Joyce Maxtone Graham, née Joyce Anstruther, alias Jan Struther, was the writer and creator of Mrs Miniver, a very proper and endearing British woman, mother of two sons and daughter, married to a perfect husband. Joyce Maxtone Graham had started early a literary career having contributed short pieces and poems to Punch, among other British publications, and being also the author of inspiring hymns. The newspaper articles, the book collection and then the wildly free adaptation to film received general public attention during the late 30’s and early 40’s in the UK and North America. The MGM film, starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, distributed worldwide, was hugely successful and become an effective propaganda tool for the war effort during the Second World War. Winston Churchill is reported to have said that it did more for the Allied cause than a flotilla of battleships. Jan Struther herself contributed with several tours of acclaimed lectures in the United States to the promotion of the film and, indirectly, to edge the Americans from an isolationist position to participation in the war.

This, let’s say, is what might be called the official, formal story behind both character and her creator. Interesting as it is, it turned out that behind it or perhaps better, alongside it, a lesser known parallel reality, concealed for many years by the writer, evolved with plenty of passion, pain and adventure. Jan Struther’s grand-daughter, Ysenda Maxtone Graham, published in 2001 a book of recollections called The Real Mrs Miniver on the life of her famous grandmother. And the real Mrs Miniver is a fascinating story indeed. Slightly Foxed Ltd has now reissued the book in a limited edition of 2000 copies (No. 21 of the series Slightly Foxed Editions); the book is both a joy to read and handle in its small, hardback format.

I won’t be including any spoilers here. Only a recommendation to read all about the intense Jan Struther (who died as Joyce Placzek). Her grand-daughter does a marvelous job telling a story of love and human character. I have the film on order. ( )
2 vote drasvola | Apr 4, 2013 |
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Book description
A biography of Jan Struther, an English writer best remembered today for her character Mrs. Miniver, originally created for a series of newspaper columns for The Times of London. She also wrote the words for several religious hymns still in use today including "Lord of All Hopefulness."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312308264, Hardcover)

In 1937 the Court Page of the London Times began publishing a series of articles featuring a charming, upper-middle class English housewife named Mrs Miniver. The articles depicted an idyllically happy family with three children, a house in London, and a country cottage called Starlings.

Two years later, Mrs Miniver was published in book form. While some critics derided the book as sentimental, many readers embraced it as a symbol of an increasingly endangered English way of life, and it went on to become the #1 bestseller in America. The Hollywood film, released in 1942 with Greer Garson in the title role, won five Oscars, including Best Picture, and did so much to promote the American war effort in Europe that even Josef Goebbels recognized it as an exemplary piece of propaganda.

But who was the real Mrs Miniver? The articles were produced by Joyce Maxtone Graham, who wrote under the name Jan Struther and seemed to resemble her heroine: She was upper-middle class, and lived in a gracious, comfortable home with her husband and three children. After the war broke out, she served as an unofficial ambassador from Great Britain to the U.S.

In truth, however, Jan Struther was not at all like the conventional Mrs Miniver. It wasn't merely that she didn't like tea--to the amazement of everyone in America--but her real life was neither simple nor saintly. Her marriage was ending, and she was secretly in love with a Jewish refugee from Nazi Austria.

Written by Jan Struther's granddaugther, The Real Mrs Miniver is a complex and fascinating biography. While the Hollywood version remains a powerful and inspirational movie, this book offers brilliant insights into the true impact of war upon real people's lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:22 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The film Mrs Miniver was a wartime classic. It took America by storm and won five Oscars. Written by her granddaughter, this is the story of the life of Jan Struther, the author of the bestselling book that inspired the film.

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