“Good Evening, Mrs. Craven” by Mollie Panter-Downes

This book is a collection of short stories, originally published in the New Yorker magazine during the second World War. The author was a prolific writer for the magazine throughout her career, submitting a wide range of work including poems, book reviews, London Letters, and Letters from England, as well as these short stories.

The twenty-one stories in this collection are vignettes of Middle England through the war, briefly chronicling the experiences and emotions of her subjects. The stories range from light-hearted, almost wickedly observed meetings of a Red Cross sewing party, to the melancholy tale of a lonely, isolated civil servant, to the sparkling joy of a young bride finally stepping out from the shadow of her sister. The characters are perceptively observed, and the wit and compassion of the writer jumps of the page all the while shrewdly documenting wartime England, and the state of the nation.

Persephone Books are fast becoming my fail safe method of ensuring I read entertaining, intelligent, beautifully written books, and this was no exception. I don’t read a lot of short stories, but these were an absolute joy, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others.

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