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on 27 June 2013
This biography reveals the woman behind the Mrs Miniver character. Written by her granddaughter the story details the life of Joyce Anstruther, later Maxtone Graham and finally Placek. From the 1930's to her premature death at the age of 52 years old, we are taken on her journey from journalist and poet to best-selling author and wife both in the UK and America.

Before reading this biography I was dimly aware of the character Mrs. Miniver however, what I was completely ignorant of - but thankfully no longer - was the woman behind the perfect mother, housewife and all-round domestic goddess, Joyce Anstruther. Her story, as told by her granddaughter takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, not dissimilar as to how this remarkable woman lived her life.

Throughout this insightful and in-depth tale we are given the chance to get to know the woman behind the mask. A woman who lived her life in extremes, swinging from chronic depression to embracing all-consuming passions. It's refreshing that Ysenda doesn't shy away from detailing the darker aspects to her grandmother's character. The comments about, how Joyce always had to ruin holidays or destroy other people's enjoyment, paints the crueller side to this complex woman.

It was often unbelievable to learn how crazily talented Joyce was. From writing for Punch to penning much loved hymns like, `When a Knight Won His Spurs' - which brought fond memories back of primary school - it is understandable that her life in the shadows of Mrs Miniver was dogged by frustrations. The pressures to become the epitome of this idealised character were keenly felt under the glare of the needs of the British war efforts resulting in a polarisation between her heart and her head. Not to mention the `jungles' that hounded her in later life.

The aspect I loved most about the way the book was written was that Ysenda had included frequent extracts of Joyce's own poetry, diary entries and witticisms. The most notable being a reference to the musician Bach and the fact `he's so alright making.' Her comments are sometimes quite acerbic but always hit the nail on the head in a unique and often amusing style. This is in direct contrast to her letters to her lover (and later husband) Adolf Placek which are full to the brim of effusive declarations of love. These inclusions both entertain and offer a greater insight into the shifting mindset of this woman.

In short this is a fascinating and beautifully written piece of work and in fact is the best biography that I have ever read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 April 2013
Joyce Anstruther was the creator of Mrs. Miniver, a wealthy upper-middle-class housewife who first appeared in the court pages of the Times from 1937 to 1939. The column then became a best-selling book in England and the States and later a wartime propaganda film, which Churchill is quoted as saying was 'more powerful to the war effort than the combined work of six military divisions'.

Mrs. Miniver's creator, however, was far more complicated than her happily-married creation, and in this biography her granddaughter Ysenda Maxtone-Graham brings Anstruther back to life, warts and all. Maxtone-Graham writes with the same ease as her grandmother (who died before she was born) and she vividly evokes Anstruther's Edwardian childhood, pre-war London, and the very different atmosphere of the States, where Anstruther spent the war. "The Real Mrs. Miniver" is an entertaining book but it also can be very dark, especially when treating of Anstruther's depression.

I enjoyed every chapter of this biography, eagerly looking forward to the time when I could next pick it up. I would perhaps recommend reading "Mrs. Miniver" first, as the contented vignettes of that book may, I think, seem tinged with sadness once you know more about their author's life. "The Real Mrs. Miniver" has recently been republished by Slightly Foxed in a beautiful little clothbound hardback.
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on 10 August 2012
This beautifully written book will be appreciated by anyone who enjoys reading biographies whether they know much about Mr Miniver or not. I can heartily recommend it. Do get hold of the hardcover as the fonts in the paperback are so tiny the quoted passages can be difficult to read.
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on 21 July 2012
I agree with reviewer who commented there was too much reality in this bio.
Maybe a strange comment for a bio but it shows the extent to which I bought into the Mrs Miniver character.

The actual book "Mrs Miniver" shows a conventional loving wife capable of warm witty and positive views of life.
I had not realised there had also been a film or what a sensation Mrs Miniver was in America during the war years. Jan Struther was vibrant and enthusiastic. During the war years she undertook an extremely punishing work schedule of lectures the width and breadth of America, promoting Mrs Miniver and describing life in war time Britain.This hugely endeared Britain and its war efforts to America.

However she was always at pains to emphasise she was not Mrs Miniver. Reading this biography, that becomes very clear and disappointed me. Although she and her hubby had agreed to discreet affairs, her apparent indifference to him during the war and when he becomes a POW seems harsh. She had jumped at the chance to go to the US as her refugee lover was there already and takes her children with her to stay with american relatives. Understandable, but at odds with the image of plucky Mrs Miniver doing her bit for the war effort on the home front. Extracts of her frank love letters also seem at odds with the person you imagine writing Mrs Miniver . Towards the end of her life she was troubled with poor physical health, depression and her post war writing was out of sync with the times. It was all a little sad.

The biography is really well written by her grand daughter however think I would have preferred to have maintained the illusion of the author and not to have discovered the reality.
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on 10 December 2008
Yes it is a good book and Yes I have enjoyed Ysenda's other writing. And Yes I am a fan of "Mrs Miniver"'s two books (although perhaps not the very American film). BUT I was surprised to find I didn't really enjoy finding out about the real Mrs Miniver and I much prefer the fictional character. For me the tangled and difficult life of the real person behind Mrs Miniver was too much reality.
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on 5 January 2002
Having watched the Film Mrs Minerva on so many occasions(I Have the Video) I was really interested in reading this book when I heard it had been published.
Being born in 1947,I was brought up by my parents with stories of the war years which I found so exciting.tales of the Anderson shelters,
Blackout Curtains made out of dyed blankets,my parents serving in the army and meeting in Germany after the war,so a film like Mrs Minerva was a must for me.
I found it a very enjoyable book but I think one has to be a bit of a Mrs Minerva fan to enjoy it.
The comparisons between the actual book Mrs Minerva and the American film are wonderful to read.Trust Hollywood to come up with it ,I always thought that Toby in the film should have been put down,it was his horrible american accent,and also the choir in the church that sounder like a Morman choir,Ive never heard the C of E sound like that.
I think Jan Struther had a sense of humour with her writing and it was not until I had read the book that I realised what else she had written.
I have sung Lord of all Hopefullness on many occasion and she had written the words for that.
I was sorry that she had a short life as Im sure she would have written much more.
I shall watch Mrs Minerva again soon and I think see it in a really new light,my one regret is that I had the book Mrs Minerva,the early copy. and it has dissapeared from mt bookshelf!!!.
Yours sincerly
Jennifer Coombes.
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