Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mollie Panter-Downes

Sometimes I'm aware that my blog can be very Pollyanna-ish, possibly giving the impression that my life is all jolliness and sunshine. As with anyone's life, this isn't the case: there are unbloggable worries and sadnesses as well. However, I try not to dwell on these, so here's a picture of the garden, with its riot of daffodils and forget-me-nots.

This attitude tends to be reflected in my choice of reading material also: I prefer the upbeat or at least the not-too-depressing. I've recently discovered Mollie Panter-Downes (fine name) who wrote during the war, often for the New Yorker - though she was English. I do find her a hoot. For example, here are some extracts from "Good Evening, Mrs Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes". In this story, Mrs Ramsay is meeting up with an old flame after five years, during which he's been abroad and she's got married. (The ... s indicate where I've skipped bits.)

“Gerald dear,” said Mrs Ramsay softly. She held out both of her hands, which Gerald pumped up and down. “Well, well,” he said, “old Helen.” Mrs Ramsay felt a slight but definite chill…

“Old Helen,” Gerald repeated fatuously, “this is nice.” Mrs Ramsay noticed coldly that he was a good deal yellower than he had been five years ago. “How is old Charles?” he asked. “And the kiddie?”

Mrs Ramsay said that old Charles was well and that old Susan had, of course, been shipped off to relatives in the country. He patted her knee absently, as though it were the head of a retriever…

Towards the end of lunch he extracted a snapshot from his cigarette case. Mrs Ramsay gazed thoughtfully at a toothy young woman in a bathing suit. “… We’re thinking of getting married,” Gerald explained…

Monica's teeth seemed many more than were strictly usual... Mrs Ramsay passed the snapshot briskly back to Gerald and said that she was so glad.

“Monica can sit on her hair,” said Gerald. “You never saw such stuff – naturally blond, too.”

Mrs Ramsay, reflecting that she would find no difficulty in sitting on Monica’s hair either if Monica’s head were included, said that she really must be running along now.

“I want you to meet Monica soon,” he said. “Do you know what attracted me to her about her first, Helen? She reminded me of you.”

As soon as she was out of sight round the corner, Mrs Ramsay took out her handbag mirror and anxiously inspected her teeth. They seemed much as usual.

It was odd how Gerald had changed when she herself looked precisely the way she had always looked. Already she felt a good deal better as she stepped jauntily along… away from the dear and mercifully stone-dead past.


  1. Anonymous10:53 pm

    Molly P-D is one of my favourites of the 20th Century women writers though I do like an awful lot more...

  2. Never heard of her, but I liked the snippet you posted.

  3. Went to look her up at Amazon and it turns out I have read her--One Fine Day--and quite liked her.

  4. I liked the excerpt too. It kind of reminded me of the style of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which I loved. We all leave things out of our blogs that we don't want to think about too much or discuss. I'm very open, but even I don't tell all. xoxo

  5. You have given me not only smiles but laughter to begin this day! I like Molly Panter-Downs writing. This bit made me think of The Provincial Lady style. I also prefer to focus on things which are happy and I think that helps me find more of them. Be well!

  6. Oops! I forgot an apostrophe there.

  7. I'm a fan too. In fact I must revisit her. Ditto the blog content. I wonder how many people would like to read a blog called Useless and Ugly. It cheers me enormously to go back through old posts and that's really what it's there for.