Top positive review
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Winston Churchill once said Mrs Miniver* would do more for the Allied cause that a flotilla of battleships.
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.