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Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

by Mollie Panter-Downes
Persephone book no:

7 8 9


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PREFACE BY GREGORY LESTAGE

240pp
ISBN 9780953478071

Good Evening, Mrs Craven reprints twenty-one short stories by Mollie Panter-Downes that were first published in The New Yorker between 1939 and 1945 and (with two exceptions) have never been reprinted - until now. They are stories of the highest quality which in our view should be set beside those by Elizabeth Bowen, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Elizabeth Taylor. In each and every story, Mollie Panter-Downes uses language with an insight and a poetic sensibility that is the mark of a great writer. 'All over London,' she wrote in 'Fin de Siecle' (12 July 1941), 'telephone bells were ringing angrily through empty rooms over which the fine brick dust, seeping in at shuttered windows, was beginning to settle.'

In these stories Mollie Panter-Downes explores almost every aspect of English domestic life during the war: boredom, separation, sewing parties, fear, evacuees sent to the country and to America, obsession with food, the camraderie of the Blitz, and above all the social revolutions of wartime. Thus in 'Year of Decision' (29 April 1944) the husband expostulates, 'For heaven's sake... It doesn't matter to me or Hitler whether I pick up my pyjamas off a chair or the floor' while his wife persists in her orderly smoothing of the eiderdown 'as though the action were yet another moral shot fired at the slowly advancing enemy.' 

In the Daily Mail Angela Huth called Good Evening, Mrs Craven ‘my especial find’ and Ruth Gorb in the Ham & High contrasted the humour of some of the stories with the desolation of others: ‘The mistress, unlike the wife, has to worry and mourn in secret for her man; a middle-aged spinster finds herself alone again when the camaraderie of the air-raids is over…'

Also available as a Persephone Classic, a Persephone e-book and a Persephone Audiobook.

Endpaper

‘Coupons’, 1941, shows women’s clothes against a repeat of '66', the number of clothes coupons allowed a year during the war, with the number needed per item.

Picture Caption

Lithograph by Frank Newbould 1942


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Categories: Ireland London Short Stories Social Comedy Woman and Home WWII

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