Persephone Week: Mrs. Craven and the Meltdown

I’ve been quiet this week; I suffered a huge disappointment on Tuesday, which led to over-the-top-pregnancy-hormone-fueled-meltdown complete with weeping.  The weepy meltdown then led to a few days of ruminating over Good Evening, Mrs. Craven:  The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

Hey! I see that incredulous lift of the eyebrow!  Let me explain…..

A house a block away from my current home came up for rent.  The home happened to be the second house from the library where I work.  It had a porch swing on a wrap around porch, shady yard, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, fireplaces with mantels in each bedroom, hardwood floors, a tin roof, large kitchen, ceiling fans…. in short, everything I always dreamed of in a home.  And it was so cheap!  Merely a hundred dollars more than my tiny two bedroom apartment. 

I was in love with the home.  The real estate agent — an older woman named Miss Bebe — showed us the house twice.  On Thursday afternoon she said she would get the lease ready for us to sign and then asked what color I wanted the nursery.  She said they were going to repaint anyways and she would be more than happy to paint it the color I’d chosen for Atticus’ room.  Happiness, pure happiness!

We spent the weekend discussing cookouts and nurseries, summer flowers and evenings on the porch, the diningroom that would function as an art studio, and baking in the large kitchen.  Monday went by with no call from the realtor.  Then Tuesday came with disappointing news.  Over the weekend Miss Bebe’s boss rented the house to someone else.  I wept.  Right there on the phone I blubbered like a baby.  Miss Bebe was upset as well, and said if she could change it she would. 

I cried the duration of the evening.  When I was finally regained my composure.  I decided to read a few tales from Good Evening, Mrs. Craven.  I started reading these wartime stories a few days prior, and I can remember being highly annoyed and dismayed with some of the characters.  Most of the stories concern women living during World War II.  The stories focus more on how the war directly or indirectly impacts their personal lives.  In “Mrs. Ramsay’s War”, Mrs. Ramsay is annoyed with Mrs. Parmenter — a woman staying with her during the war — because Mrs. Parmenter has taken over her home.  Mrs. Parmenter even usurps the good light for knitting.  Miss Mildred Ewing in “This Flower, Safety” is dismayed because she cannot find a quiet place to live away from the sounds war; she wants quiet and to be oblivious to violence and disorder.  The women in these stories are concerned for family and desire to protect their personal creature comforts.  Of course there is this constant awareness of the war, but also a strong effort to push out what cannot be controlled and embrace the lovely controllable aspects of life such as gardening, lunch, and sewing.

I don’t have any clear parallels to draw between my meltdown and Mollie Panter-Downes’ tales, the only thing I can say is that the women felt extremely real to me.  Here I was weeping over a house I loved for all of a week when I have a perfectly good roof over my head and there are far more pressing needs in the world. Amanda not getting her porch swing is not a sign of End Times.  Perhaps I was annoyed with Mrs. Ramsay and Miss Ewing because I might do the same during a war:  focus on the daily, the less horrid, the controllable. 

After reading, blowing my nose, and filling my brain with common sense, I went down stairs, made some tea, and did some knitting — under the good light, of course. 



  1. oh amanda. i am so sorry. i just feel sick inside. i am glad you were able to gain some semblance of perspective, but it still really sucks. i don't even know how to explain how bad i feel. let me know if you need anything, we're in a place now that could handle a visit from you guys.

  2. I am sorry for the disappointment 😦 I am sure, however, that it means there is an even better house out there for you and for Atticus' nursery.

    I am pleased that Mrs Craven was able to provide some perspective and consolation.

  3. What a huge disappointment about the house! I'm sorry to hear about it. But I'm glad that you enjoyed the book. I've just discovered the Persephone books and now I want to read all of them!

  4. I feel your pain. I went through the very same thing about one year ago when my husband and I were looking for a place. I thought I had found the perfect little house only to find out I was about five minutes too late. I cried all night too. About a month later another place popped up and we jumped on it. I daresay that things worked out for the best. I'm sure they will for you too. You never know, that old place could have bad wiring or rats in the walls. 🙂

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