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Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes (Persephone Classics) Paperback – December 31, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
The stories are set in order of writing (chronologically as the war progressed), and as you read through, you can see the experiences and problems of the British people during the war change.
My mother lived through the Second World War in England, and many of the stories echo what she told me. Fairly late in the book, for example, is a short story about the fairly severe food rationing, which was taking its toll: the central character of one story is a school teacher whose thoughts dwell on food, displacing most other concerns, except, perhaps, jealousy. Chocolate bars are to be eaten privately to avoid having to be shared. Other stories tell about housing shortages, and people living uncomfortably in shared households and trying to make the best of it.
But what I thought is particularly great in these stories is the perfection of the endings -- those last paragraphs should be studied carefully by would-be writers, to see how cleverly the author "sticks the landing." My only complaint was learning that the author apparently wrote relatively few short stories -- she was primarily a journalist.
This book is a rare treat for anyone interested in short stories, war fiction, World War II, or the writing of forgotten women authors.
Mollie Panter-Downes's stories are vignettes that focus on short moments in the day of average Britons during the war. None of these people is particularly remarkable, but they live in extraordinary times, and how they cope with that is what's so fascinating about this collection. From country housewives serving on Red Cross committees and housing evacuees, to young working women surviving the London Blitz, to a spinster who fantasizes about the food she can't have, to an old Major who looks forward with relish to the fighting (even though he can't join in), these stories are funny and poignant at the same time.
The characters in these stories are very loosely connected to one another, and only one appears more than once (Mrs. Ramsay, the housewife, whose reflections on her circumstances are brilliantly funny; I wish Panter-Downes had written more stories featuring her). The most moving of these stories is the title story, "Good Evening Mrs. Craven," in which a mistress (mistakenly called Mrs. Craven by a maitre d' at a restaurant) has to mourn her lover in secret. These stories have been published here in the order that they were published, and throughout the book you can see the war unfold. Although each story is only a few pages, the characters are very well rounded; in fact, there's so much material here that the author could have written a full-length novel centering around any one of them. I don't normally read much in the way of short stories, but this collection is top-notch.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm not usually a big fan of short stories but these are spectacular. They provide little glimpses into everyday life during World War II in Britain. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Lynn Workman
Just fascinating written in the 1940s about possible wartime experiences in EnglandPublished 14 months ago by Lizzie
Honestly one of the most enjoyable, beautifully written set of short stories I've read in a long, long time. (And I read *a lot*! Read morePublished 19 months ago by L. Taylor
She is a subtle but engaging writer. This was a diversion from the numerous World War 2 diaries I have been reading and it was a nice change from the intensity of the real life... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Grace Catledge
Excellent compilation from The New Yorker that gives you a better idea of what it was like to live in England during WWII. Very enjoyable read.Published on January 30, 2014 by ANiceCupOfTea
GOOD EVENING MRS CRAVEN by Mollie Panter-Downes is a series of wartime stories set in Britain during the Second World War. Like most British people, Ms. Read morePublished on March 11, 2013 by SpunStories B.
The rhythms of entire lives, caught and compressed into the small and pressured intervals of wartime London. Read morePublished on March 2, 2013 by Zo
From the beginning of each story, written chronologically as WWII progressed, the reader is captivated, and drawn into the very intimate life of British citizens surviving the war... Read morePublished on October 20, 2012 by Cindy L.