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1. Excellent Women (Penguin Classics)
2. An Unsuitable Attachment: a novel
3. Quartet in Autumn (Plume)
4. Less Than Angels: A Novel
5. No Fond Return of Love
6. A Few Green Leaves
7. Jane and Prudence
8. Glass of Blessings: A Novel
9. Some Tame Gazelle
10. Civil to Strangers
11. Felicity and Barbara Pym
12. An Academic Question (Plume)
13. Barbara Pym Omnibus
14. Crampton Hodnet
15. A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara
16. a la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery
17. Civil to Strangers and Other Writings
18. All This Reading: The Literary
19. Social Dimensions in the Novels
20. The Subversion of Romance in the

1. Excellent Women (Penguin Classics)
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 256 Pages (2006-12-26)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.92
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 014310487X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Excellent Women is one of Barbara Pym’s richest and most amusing high comedies. Mildred Lathbury is a clergyman’s daughter and a mild-mannered spinster in 1950s England. She is one of those "excellent women," the smart, supportive, repressed women who men take for granted. As Mildred gets embroiled in the lives of her new neighbors—anthropologist Helena Napier and her handsome, dashing husband, Rocky, and Julian Malory, the vicar next door—the novel presents a series of snapshots of human life as actually, and pluckily, lived in a vanishing world of manners and repressed desires.Amazon.com Review
An unqualifiedly great novel from the writer most likely to becompared to Jane Austen, this is a very funny, perfectly written bookthat can rival any other in its ability to capture the essence of itscharacters on the page. Mildred Lathbury, the narrator of Pym'sexcellent book is a never-married woman in her 30s--which in 1950sEngland makes her a nearly-confirmed spinster. Hers is a prettyunexciting life, centered around her small church, and part-timejob. But Mildred is far more perceptive and witty than even she seemsto think, and when Helena and Rockingham Napier move into the flatbelow her, there seems to be a chance for her life to take a newdirection. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (36)

5-0 out of 5 stars purchased as gift, receiver praised pacakging
I purchased this book as a gift for my mother and had it shipped straight to her.
She emailed me and let me know that it arrived promptly and packaged well and in good condition.
She asked that I give this seller a positive review because of the condition of the package.

5-0 out of 5 stars "I always think of you as being so very balanced and sensible,...
...such an excellent woman."And a bit later in the novel: "`You could consider marrying an excellent woman?' I asked in amazement. "But they are not for marrying.'" Barbara Pym's use of the title phrase is wryly ironic throughout the book. The women of excellence are the self-effacing, non-entities, bound for, or have already embraced, what was once called spinsterhood. They often found fulfillment clustered in church auxiliaries, polishing the brass candles, and arranging the flowers for the much more important pastor, a male, who was in charge, and who would patronizingly "compliment" them with that phrase.

The novel is told through the eyes of Mildred Lathbury, one of literature's unforgettable, empathetic characters. She is 30ishs. The period is early post-Second World War England. Some of the worship services are depicted in a church that still has its bomb damage un-repaired. The other characters are less sympathetic, and include Rockingham and Helena Napier, and the pastor Julian Malory and his sister, Winfred. The Napier'shave moved into a "flat" downstairs, and indicative of the housing shortage of the period, share the common bathroom with Mildred. "Rocky" is a de-mobbed naval officer, rather shallow, whose previous duties included rendering solace to WRENS (British female naval officers) in Italy. His wife Helena is an anthropologist, who doesn't do the housekeeping well. Helena's colleague, Everard is also an anthropologist, and via both one gains insight into the workings of their profession, as well as the associated "learned" societies. The arrival of Allegra Grey, recently widowed from a clergyman, with her eyes on Pastor Malory, adds additional drama to the novel. But the drama is never high; the issues are not all-encompassing and grandiose. As Ms Lathbury says: "I wondered that she should waste so much energy fighting over a little matter like wearing hats in chapel, but then I told myself that, after all, life was like that for most of us--the small unpleasantness rather than the great tragedies; the little useless longings rather than the great renunciations and dramatic love affairs of history or fiction."

Pym epitomizes classic understated British humor. She has that deft touch of selecting the precise detail that will resonate with the reader, and flesh out words that we use daily in graphic images. Clearly Mildred Lathbury is "self-effacing," and who could ever forget that after passages like: "I began taking off my apron and tidying my hair, apologizing as I did so, in what I felt was a stupid, fussy way, for my appearance. As if anyone would care how I looked or even notice me, I told myself scornfully." Or latter, when William has taken her to lunch, and he says, of the Nuits St. George wine: "`A tolerable wine, Mildred,' he said, `unpretentious, but I think you will like it.' `Unpretentious, just like me,' I said stupidly, touching the feather in my brown hat.'"Another complementary theme throughout the novel is how all the other characters routinely impose their problems upon Mildred. She realized it, but normally accepts them, and attempts to resolve them. At some level, I found the novel a wonderful antidote for any desire to live in a more integrated community. The anonymous life of the big city has much to be said for it.

Pym also weaves a certain level of erudition throughout the novel, which most likely reflected the actual level of the characters, before the days of television. For example, the Pastor quotes Keats to Mildred, all too fittingly:

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs.

Mildred thinks the last line would be a great title for a novel; I checked at Amazon, and yes, it is still `available.'

As for observations on the human condition, consider Mildred's comment: "Yes, men are sometimes taken in. They don't ever quite see the terrible depths that we do."

Does Mildred get "rescued" from spinsterhood, as every empathetic reader would hope? Yet another compelling reason to read this marvelous, "balanced and sensible", in a very British sort of way, 5-star plus novel.

4-0 out of 5 stars "Was any man worth this burden?"
The "excellent women" are the proper and genteel but unglamorous women who inconvenience themselves in a thousand small ways to smooth the lives of the men of England -- not the wives or girlfriends, but rather the sisters, the old maids, and the old maids in making.They are exemplified by Mildred Lathbury, 32, the narrator of this tale of a year in her life, in London, circa 1952.

For me to attempt to summarize the plot won't do EXCELLENT WOMEN justice, because the novel is thin on plot.That's because the lives of the excellent women are, by definition, rather drab and ordinary.But the novel is strong in its deft character sketches and its portrayal of social practices, attitudes, and conventions.It also is distinguished by its understated satire and it is quite humorous, perhaps like a gentler and subtler Evelyn Waugh or Kingsley Amis.However, the author I am most reminded of is Anthony Trollope -- time-transported to the austere Britain of the years after WWII.

Although it is very engaging, THE EXCELLENT WOMEN is not just entertainment.Submerged beneath the light tone and the graceful writing, there is a certain depth and gravitas to the novel.The fine introduction by A.N. Wilson relates that Philip Larkin was an ardent fan of the novel as well as a good friend of Barbara Pym.I can readily understand their compatibility.Four-and-a-half stars, and I will gladly read another novel by Barbara Pym.

4-0 out of 5 stars Funny, witty, what took me so long to discover B Pym?
I will be reading more from Barbara Pym. Excellent women is so witty, subtle and insightful. She really is an under-rated author!

4-0 out of 5 stars Even funnier the second time.
I read this book when I was in graduate school in the 1980s and again just recently.It was just as funny the second time!I especially liked the character Rocky Napier who is played in my mind's theater by David Niven.

Mildred is such an astute observer of human nature. She manages to take her own path despite frequent interventions by others who want to include her in their own agenda.

There is very little action. The only crisis occurs when the pastor's pretty fiancee wants to have the family diamond ring reset!
... Read more

2. An Unsuitable Attachment: a novel
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 256 Pages (2010-01-01)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$7.66
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 155921354X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
An Unsuitable Attachment is set in a parish outside of London. There the novel's "unattached" characters work out a confusing web of matchmaking and forming attachments. A new eligible bachelor in the neighborhood, Rupert Stonebird, finds himself choosing between two very different women.

Sophie, the wife of the Vicar of St. Basil, becomes determined to match her sister Penelope with Rupert, a plan that would seem to work well until a graceful and quite suitable Iantha Broome also becomes a member of the community. As Rupert grapples with courting either Penelope or Iantha, Iantha finds herself with two more suitors. This elegant novel will keep readers enthralled as unsuitable and suitable attachments unfold. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the great English novelists quietly and deviously makes you laugh (and sigh)
Perhaps my favorite of all Pym's novels for its poignancy, humor, sly social observations, its recognition of social and economic changes going on in England at the time, its wry accounts of workplace interaction, its great treatment of class, the Church, love in its many forms, courtship......A superb comedy of manners......Not cool or brittle, though: Pym loves her characters.

4-0 out of 5 stars Pym at her most typical
AN UNSUITABLE ATTACHMENT might be called the most typical of Barbara Pym's novels, which is a bit surprising because it was one that was famously rejected by her publisher in the mid 1960s, leading to her long spell when she did not publish until she was famously rediscovered over a decade later (and was nominated for the Booker Prize for QUARTET IN AUTUMN). All the types you'll find in other Pym novels--the unmarried woman leaving the bloom of youth doing research or filing work for others; the gentle vicar; his eccentric wife; the preoccupied anthropologist--are present here, and the central questions (as always) center upon marriage and happiness in distressed but genteel circumstances. This is not one of the Pym books that absolutely knocks your socks off for either its humor or its construction, but it's still well crafted and very funny (in Pym's gentle and unsurprising way). There's a great cat that figures as much into the plot as nearly any of the humans, and a splendid and very recognizable set-piece of most of the major characters taking a vacation in Rome where they flirt with one another (always one of the preoccupations of any Pym novel, and probably why she has so often been compared a bit misleadingly to Jane Austen).

5-0 out of 5 stars Romance, social class, church and a cat.
Barbara Pym is often called the Jane Austen of our time.Insofar as she observes keenly the social intercourse, inconsistancies and mores of her own time and place, this is true.But do not regard her as a duplicate of anyone.Her dry, elegant observations reach their height in An Unsuitable Attachment, a meandering story which takes place in a London parish in the 1960's.Pym lightly delineates the social changes taking place in England through her assortment of characters.From the upper-middle-class vicar's wife Sophia, devoted to her aptly-named cat Faustina and her handsome if remote husband Mark, to the wistfully mod single Penelope, to the good-hearted if crude working-class Sister Dew, Pym represents the spectrum of generational and class attitudes, and the resultant clashes of understanding between these attitudes.In spare yet well-honed descriptions she evokes a post-war, newly prospering London, a city where exotic (meaning dark-skinned) immigrants live close by old-fashioned people whose relatives who come up by train from the country to open a parish bazaar.I lived in London not many years ofter this story is set, and the mix of characters, descriptions of streets and houses, and tone and pace brilliantly evoke the atmosphere of that wonderfully complex and vital city.The romance is fun, too.

5-0 out of 5 stars Romance, social class, church and a cat.
Barbara Pym is often called the Jane Austen of our time.Insofar as she observes keenly the social intercourse, inconsistancies and mores of her own time and place, this is true.But do not regard her as a duplicate of anyone.Her dry, elegant observations reach their height in An Unsuitable Attachment, a meandering story which takes place in a London parish in the 1960's.Pym lightly delineates the social changes taking place in England through her assortment of characters.From the upper-middle-class vicar's wife Sophia, devoted to her aptly-named cat Faustina and her handsome if remote husband Mark, to the wistfully mod single Penelope, to the good-hearted if crude working-class Sister Dew, Pym represents the spectrum of generational and class attitudes, and the resultant clashes of understanding between these attitudes.In spare yet well-honed descriptions she evokes a post-war, newly prospering London, a city where exotic (meaning dark-skinned) immigrants live close by old-fashioned people whose relatives who come up by train from the country to open a parish bazaar.I lived in London not many years ofter this story is set, and the mix of characters, descriptions of streets and houses, and tone and pace brilliantly evoke the atmosphere of that wonderfully complex and vital city.The romance is fun, too. ... Read more

3. Quartet in Autumn (Plume)
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 224 Pages (1992-07-15)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$9.25
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0452269342
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This is the story of four people in late middle-age - Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia - whose chief point of contact is that they work in the same office and they suffer the same problem - loneliness. Lovingly, poignantly, satirically and with much humour, Pym conducts us through their small lives and the facade they erect to defend themselves against the outside world. There is nevertheless an obstinate optimism in her characters, allowing them in their different ways to win through to a kind of hope. Barbara Pym's sensitive wit and artistry are at their most sparkling in "Quartet in Autumn". 'An exquisite, even magnificent work of art' - "Observer". 'Barbara Pym has a sharp eye for the exact nuances of social behaviour' - "The Times". 'The wit and style of a twentieth century Jane Austen' - "Harpers & Queen". 'Barbara Pym's unpretentious, subtle, accomplished novels are for me the finest examples of high comedy to have appeared in England during the past 75 years ...spectacular' - "Sunday Times". 'Very funny and keenly observant of the ridiculous as well as the pathetic in humanity' - "Financial Times".Amazon.com Review
Quartet in Autumn is one of the books Pym wrote duringthe 15 years when no one would publish her, and perhaps the same kind ofbalance between hopelessness and inner strength helped shape thisnovel's story about four friends in an office nearing the age ofretirement. They are people who have lived unspectacularly, but who haveconjured a sense of themselves from the quartet's unity. Things start tochange when two of them retire. Pym maps this ordinary strangeness oflife with her particular genius for brilliant psychological insight andquiet humor that never strains for effect. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars "There was something to be said for tea and a comfortable chat about crematoria."
Filled with dry, ironic humor, Quartet in Autumn, first published in 1977, is a poignant depiction of the lives of four elderly people, who have worked together in London for several years.All of them live alone, and none of them have much of a life outside of their repetitive,intellectually deadening jobs.They treat each other only as colleagues and not as friends, both in and out of the office and have never socialized, visited each other's houses or apartments, shared a lunch hour together, or come to know each other as human beings.

Pym develops her wonderfully unique characters separately, rotating the point of view and the narrative among them.Letty, "fluffy and faded, a Home Counties type," regrets that she never had the opportunity to marry; by the time the war ended she was thirty and Opportunity had passed her by.Marcia, by contrast, is eccentric, living in the decaying and not maintaining even a semblance of neatness.She has never bothered to remove from a bed a hairball from her long-dead cat.Edwin, a widower, fills his free time with church activities, enjoying his "lunchtime church crawl" and his evenings filled with Masses which celebrate obscure church events.Norman, has no social skills and alternates spending his lunch hour at the the library, where he reads the newspaper, and at the British Museum, where he has been seen viewing the mummified crocodiles, a mini-symbol for the characters themselves.

When the two women retire, life for all of them changes dramatically, and when the men decide to take the "old dears" to lunch several weeks after they retire, the four of them have their first social occasion, with mixed results.It is the death of one of the characters which eventually draws the three survivors together again, and as they consider what kind of funeral services the person would want, what memories each of the others has of that person, and what this implies regarding their own mortality, they finally begin to interact and become truly human.

Pym is very funny, her images and description of events incomparable.Though the novel has little "plot," it is an extraordinarily memorable and moving novel of characters who are dealing with their own aging and mortality.Pym is so good at capturing the real feelings of real people and revealing their unspoken needs that careful readers, regardless of their age, will be stunned at the amount of information Pym is able to convey within a few words, images, or sentences.The characters' commitment to minding their own business and "not being any trouble to anyone" overwhelms their abilities to reach out.Pym calls a spade a spade, and her ironic depiction of old age is one that no one nearing that age will ever forget.Mary Whipple

Excellent Women (Penguin Classics)
An Unsuitable Attachment
No Fond Return of Love
Some Tame Gazelle

5-0 out of 5 stars Pym at her most restrained
The story of two men and two women who work side by side in the same office, Quartet in Autumn resonates with an elegiac tone unlike any of Barbara Pym's other work.When Letty and Marcia retire, they approach the unknown world of retirement in different ways.The colleagues whom they left behind, Edwin and Norman, believe their lives will be unaffected by the departure of the women, but they soon learn differently.In this novel Pym explores themes of identity, relationships, loneliness, and self awareness with the delicate but firm hand of a master.There is humor, but it is subtle compared to the light heartedness of her other novels. There is death, but it is not entirely unexpected, and it serves as a kind of wake up call to the three who remain.

Pym understood that lives may be lived very quietly on the outside, while masking a complex, even chaotic inner life. The characters in all her novels have dignity even in their improbable and at times silly imaginings, because Pym is a writer who respects her characters and understands them.As readers we come to love and respect them as well, even if we sometimes laugh at them, just a bit. Yet we know, even as we smile, that we could do worse than come under the scrutiny of an observer as wise and witty as Barbara Pym.

5-0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally well written novel that is winsome, deep and sympathetic.
Nominated for England's prestigious Booker Prize and largely inspired by her own retirement, Quartet in Autumn is the book that catapulted Barbara Pym back into the glow of the literary spotlight. For well over fifteen years, Barbara Pym was shunned by the fickle publishing and writing community for books that seemed too out-of-date and not aligned or in vogue with the political, social and economic happenings of the times. Now, though long since deceased, she is often compared and rightfully exulted to being the modern-day Jane Austin. Her books, irrelevant of the critics, do show that she was indeed a master of sparse language, intricate yet subtle plots as well as a dissecting and analytical mind to a plethora of human issues that affect us all. She was an artist of true literature.

Quartet in Autumn is the story of four aging office workers, two of whom are nearing retirement. One is a widower who is not all that family oriented, and the others are all spinsters. No marriage. No kids. The four characters are: Marcia Ivory, Edwin Braithwaite, Letty Crowe and Norman. There is nothing whatsoever remarkable about any of them; they are simple and ordinary. What glues them all together is their office job, work that can be replaced by the advancement of computer technology. One would refer to these four as aging dinosaurs symbolizing a bygone era, and that is how Pym evokes their individual essence. All four characters put up a front, harden their hearts, in order to survive losing or being on the cusp of losing the one pivitol lifeline that gives their overly ordinary existence meaning--their office work. Yet, when Marcia and Letty do end up retiring, the dynamic of the four office worker's relationships change. And each one must confront what it means to truly be alone, to be lacking the warmth of human bonds and involvement in something bigger than themselves. That is an issue that each one confronts. And it is in the complexity of this single issue where Barbara Pym shines in juxtaposing each character atop a difined concern. The evocator is not society; it is the self. And that is what each character must confront, some successfully and others less so. Granted, when people retire, they don't all immediately jump the boat and head towards the senior center for fun, for not everyone operates that way, and the character of the interfering social worker Janice Brabner represents that fully.

Quartet in Autumn raises a bunch of questions about what it means to retire. What does it mean for the individual who is not the go-getter with the opinion that life begins at sixty or seventy and jets off on an international tourist package with other like-minded senior citizens? Especially in this day and age where our seniors are redefining what it means to be old, Quartet in Autumn is the book that proffers the opposite opinion and or approach to the age issue. And it is equally important, for it showcases that you are in many respects as old as you act and carry yourself. Being a character in a Barbara Pym novel may not be a wonderful thing, but they eventually see the light and improvethemselves, despite the mounting obstacles. The readers of Barbara Pym's classics are certainly all the better and grateful for it!

5-0 out of 5 stars Autumn Joy
This is the third Pym novel I have read.My reaction each time has been the same.After the first fifteen pages I hear myself asking, Why am I reading this novel? Who are these people? Who cares?But later that day or the next there I am reading along, not quite as judgmental as I was at first, but still asking myself, what am I doing here?Certainly by the second book, I recognized there was a process repeating itself.When I realized, I am no longer reading a novel, I am inhabiting this world, she has made me a voyeur without embarrassment, without judgment.

I am not going to compare Barbara Pym to this writer or that.I am not going to tell you she is better than X or Y for these reasons.I am going to tell you that few writers have ever matched her ability to inhabit her characters so completely, so fully to give them vitality and nobility even when these are precisely qualities they do not possess.

Reading Barbara Pym reminds me of reading the great English naturalist Gilbert White (1720-1793), a brilliant observer whose modest commentary belied his knowledge and genius.Like White, Pym offers us the world of people just like us -- well people just unlike us but ordinary, like us.She is of course remarkably sly but you do not have to be concerned with her slyness to appreciate her genius.Leave that to the graduate students who will flense her characters, draining the extraordinary lives she is offering us.
Finally, in the time we live, where breast cancer has become epidemic, Pym who herself finally died from this affliction, introduces and explores this existential drama with extraordinary finesse.It is a privilege to enter the worlds she offers us.I feel like a housebreaker with permission.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of Pym's Best
I have read this book many times and always find something new in its prose to admire and reflect on, especially since I'm reaching retirement age myself soon. Most people who have commented on the book describe the characters as morose, lonely, and even pathetic but they don't strike me that way at all. It's true that Pym underlines in this novel some realities of old age and shows us various aspects that can be problemmatic as we age such as loss, regret and sadness.However, I think the four characters in the book describe for us a cross section of typical single lives, the choices they made and how they have adapted to the events that resulted from these choices. Because they did make choices, such as not marrying, not choosing successful careers, not having children and so forth. Most of us live unreflected lives and drift along hoping it will all turn out and I think Pym's characters in this book do just that. They hope for the best and get on with living in spite of their various limitations; the kind we all have. The tone at the end is rather positive, modest success for all except Marcia who has died.
I've read that Pym is Letty in the book. The character was closely modelled on Pym herself. For this reason alone it's worth reading if you have come to enjoy the author's gentle intelligent novels as much as I have. ... Read more

4. Less Than Angels: A Novel
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 256 Pages (2008-06-01)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$7.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1559213884
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
It is surely appropriate that anthropologists, who spend their time studying life and behavior in various societies, should be studied in their turn," says Barbara Pym. In a wonderful twist on her subjects, she has written a book inspecting the behavior of a group of anthropologists. She pits them against each other in affairs of the heart and mind.Academia is an especially rich backdrop. There is competition between the sexes, gender, and age groups. With Pym's keen eye for male pretensions and female susceptibilities, she exploits with good humor. Love will have its way even among the learned, one of whom is in a quandary between an adult and a young student. This is the world of research, grants, libraries and primitive cultures. Here is a particularly interesting contrast between the tribes of Africa and the social matrix of London. As the title implies, civilized society fares not too well on moral grounds to the more primitive societies. Barbara Pym does a masterful job with the mores of the cloistered society of academia. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Less than Angels
Barbara Pym is an underappreciated author--a modern Jane Austen.This book, like her others, is lots of fun.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tribal customs
Besides being an author, Barbara Pym worked with the International African Institute in London, where she worked closely with anthropologists, who turn up with great frequency in her novels. In LESS THAN ANGELS she turns her attention almost completely over to a group of anthropology students and professors and their aides working at an unnamed university in London; the result is one of her very best novels, and certainly her funniest. As frequently happens with Pym's works, there is no clear protagonist in this work; almost everyone engages our sympathies but very differently. Most of the characters seem to be in orbit in one way or another around Tom Mallow, a charismatic son of privilege who has left his landed family to work on his dissertation, and Professor Felix Mainwaring, a distinguished anthropology professor who has managed to charm a wealthy widow into giving his department the promise of quite a lot of money. Most of the novel is superficially about the competition among various women in Tom's life for his romantic attentions, and that among the students to get one of the fellowships Professor Mainwaring dangles before them, but really it's a kind of anthropological study in itself of a very highly educated and polite group of people who seem on their way out as a dominant social force in London. (The novel is filled with references to its nineteenth-century antecedents in Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, and also shows us at odd moments the potential for the great social changes unleashed in London in the twentieth century in the form of non-European immigrants and of enthusiasts for alternative political ideologies such as international communism.)

Pym's exceptionally dry humor is quite evident throughout, and I genuinely laughed out loud at several sections (particularly at the weekend retreat Professor Mainwaring arranges for his fellowship applicants at his country estate, which has one of the funniest outcomes in fiction I can remember). What might be more subtle is the author's extraordinary craft at manipulating her characters and her situations. This is one of the most deftly constructed novels I've read in quite some time.

4-0 out of 5 stars both warm and biting at the same time
As usual, Pym has managed to achieve that peculiar sweet/sour tone which works so well in her novels. In Less Than Angels, a group of anthropologists find that competition on different levels leads them into new combinations of relationships and ideas. Whether it comes down to affairs of the heart or academic achievement, things are not as they seem and people have unexpected depths. Less Than Angels is particularly nice as it seems in large part to be about the ability of characters to change, even given the constrained and mannered world in which they live.

While reading, I enjoyed this book as much as I have enjoyed any Pym that I have read. However, I noticed when I sat down to write this review that it didn't stay with me as clearly or for as long as some of the others. If you haven't read Pym before, I would begin with The Sweet Dove Died or Excellent Women. These to are, to my mind, her best works. However, if you are already a fan of Pym, you will find nothing to disappoint you in Less Than Angels.

4-0 out of 5 stars Enchanting
Barbara Pym has been compared to Jane Austen. I think that the similarities lie in the two authors' portrayal of characters.

In Austen's world, and a century later in Pym's, the women had comparatively little todo. They have lunch or dinner with friends, attend parties or volunteer atchurch. But even so, they have great amounts of time left over forintrospection. Therein lies the beauty of both authors' stories. Who elsecould make such ordinary, uneventful lives seem interesting, even gripping?

Pym treats her characters with a gentle humor, making even their foiblesseem genuinely endearing. While reading "Less Than Angels," Icared what happened to level headed Catherine and flighty Phoebe, twosingle women in love with the same man. Her characters are people I wouldlike to know. Together we'd drink tea and have a pleasant chat, whilingaway a rainy afternoon.

5-0 out of 5 stars Classic Pym
"Less Than Angels" is full of classic Pym characters: the eccentric, Alaric Lydgate, who sits in the evenings with an African mask on and wishes it were permissable to wear it out in public; Rhoda Wellcome andMabel Swan, sisters, Rhoda given to peering at the neighbors from behindlace curtains; Catherine Oliphant, a writer and spinster, but with a twistshe is living, unmarried with; Tom Mallow, one of many anthropologists inthe story. Readers of "Excellent Women" will enjoy thereappearance of Esther Clovis and the references to Everard and MildredBone. The men in this story have more character development than inprevious Pym novels. They are shown to be real people not so different formtheir feminine counterparts. There is competition in this story, athree-way competition for Tom Mallow's love, and a four-way competition forthe Foresight grants, for the study of anthropolgy. The competitions mirroreach other in subtle ways. Catherine is one of Pym's most endearingcharacters. You really yearn for her to find happiness. This is one of myfavorites. ... Read more

5. No Fond Return of Love
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 254 Pages (2002-07-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$8.89
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 155921306X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Dulcie Mainwaring, the heroine of the book, is one of those "excellent women" who is always helping others and never looking out for herself- especially in the realms of love. The novel has a delicate tangle of schemes and unfulfilled dreams, hidden secrets and a castle or two. Told wonderfully in the deadpan honesty that has become a Pym hallmark, this book is a delight. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Contingency plans
Jilted by her fiancé (because he says she is "too good" for him), Dulcie Mainwaring has little to link her to the rest of the world. Although she has inherited a large Victorian house from her parents, she has no relatives, few friends, and a classic Barbara Pym job as an index compiler for scholarly authors; all she has to connect her to the rest of the world are the little fantasies she spins about those who lives are contingent to her own. And thus when she attends a book conference and becomes fascinated by a handsome married older author, Aylwin Forbes, and befriends the woman with whom he had an affair, Viola Dace, Dulcie finds a way to give new shape and direction for her life.

One of Pym's most inventive comedies, NO FOND RETURN OF LOVE is much concerned with the way in which we invent stories about the people whom we live near, and how those fantasies can be even more sustaining for than our actual relations with these people. Dulcie and Viola become stalkers of Aylwin Forbes with little compunction or fear; it seems perfectly natural to them to base their friendship on trading information they've unearthed about him or on staking out his mother-in-law's house together. But most of the other characters are themselves fantasists too: Aylwin has constructed plans of his own around Dulcie's niece Laurel, for example. The novel is an extended commentary on metafiction, and thus it seems of little surprise when other characters from Pym's previous novels begin popping up for little cameos at the novel's end (though this does go on for too long), as does Pym herself. While not as funny as LESS THAN ANGELS nor as beautifully constructed as EXCELLENT WOMEN, this remains one of Pym's best books.

4-0 out of 5 stars "Life's Problems Are Often Eased By Hot Milky Drinks"
If you read novels in order to vicariously experience 1) Passionate Romance, 2) Hot Sex, 3) Violent Degradation and Tearful Redemption, 4) Political Intrigue or 5) Action/ Adventure, it's a fair bet you will not enjoy reading a book by Barbara Pym. If, however, you enjoy reading about 1) Dowdy, Socially Awkward 30-ish Spinsters, 2) Middle-aged Washed-Up Academics, 3) Confused Clergymen, 4) The Finer Points of Anglo-Catholic Liturgy and Lifestyle, or 5) Tea -- you will enjoy her immensely. Her stories of socially awkward people living lives of very quiet church-going, gardening, tea-sipping desperation in Post-War Britain are written with a light, witty hand and a keen, sensitive mind. For good reason she was known in her time as the new Jane Austen. In this one, our heroine, Dulcie Mainwaring, meets both Viola Dace and Aylwin Forbes at a conference for researchers and becomes involved in a romantic triangle that results in more confusion, disappointment, awkwardness and hot milky drinks than... uhh... actual romance. Still, all turns out more-or-less right in the end and all the more satisfying because of it. Delightful.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite writers
In No Fond Return of Love, three people converge on an academic conference at a girls' school: Dulcie Mainwaring, a middle-aged spinster living in the London suburbs; Viola Dace, an indexer; and Aylwin Forbes, a lecturer and editor, with whom Viola is in love. Dulcie soon finds herself becoming mildly obsessed with the handsome Aylwin; and looks him up in books at the local library and even walking past his mother-in-law's house. Oh, if only the internet had been around in the 1950s, when this novel is set!

Later, Dulcie's niece, Laurel, moves in with her in order to attend a secretarial course; Viola, after an argument with her landlady, moves in not long after. Laurel soon finds herself being the object of Aylwin Forbes's affection, even as Viola continues to be in love with him. What's the levelheaded, eager-to-please Dulcie to do?

No Fond Return of Love is a sweet, gentle romance, much in the way that Jane Austen's works are (and indeed, this novel has been compared to Persuasion). Pym does a wonderful job, in all of her works, of exposing her characters' foibles. Dulcie is a bit of a saint, but not in the holier-than-thou or pedantic way, which I thought was delightful. In a way, Pym's work is a lot like Muriel Spark's, but I've found that I much prefer Pym. Her work is so much more genteel than Spark's is.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book!
My only question about Dulcie is, where is her social group?She seems not to have any friends prior to Viola Dace.Surely that's not possible?

5-0 out of 5 stars The best of Pym!
I thought I had read all of Pym's novels, but then realized that I had somehow missed No Fond Return of Love. After making up for my mistake, I would have to say that No Fond Return of Love has become my very favorite Pym work. That the story revolves around the incredibly patient and self-effacing folks who compose academic bibliographies (in the days when it was all done by hand), is a stroke of comic genius. Aside from the usual wit and depth of insight, it has the most wonderfully intricate plot and the most fleshed-out and real characters of all her fine books.Dulcie Mainwaring is a saint!And, a very real person.Everyone gets what she wants in this novel, and although the reader may disagree with the main characters' choices, they are THEIR choices and totally believable.This is also the sunniest and funniest of all the Pym novels, and I found myself literally laughing out loud at the many human failings and foibles Pym reveals in her most kind, generous, and forgiving manner.

Pym is always compared to Jane Austen, but No Fond Return of Love seems to me a finer work than anything of Miss Austen's.I enjoyed every single moment of this book and look forward to a re-reading of it quite soon. ... Read more

6. A Few Green Leaves
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 256 Pages (1999-01-01)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$8.23
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1559212284
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Completed barely two months before her death, Pym's last novel is an incisive and wry portrait of life in an English village in Oxfordshire. It is also certain to be considered by many her masterwork.

In A Few Green Leaves the author combines the rural setting of her earliest novels with many of the themes--and even some characters--of her later ones. Switching points of view among many characters, she builds with accumulating effect the picture of life in a town forgotten by time yet affected dramatically by it. Historical time--represented by Druid ruins, the local eighteenth-century country manor, and the last aristocrats who occupied it in the 1920's--is juxtaposed against the banalities of life in today's world. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Read Barbara Pym, you will never regret it
I read several Barbara Pym novels almost 30 years ago.I put them in the book case and saved them.I moved them with me 7 or 8 times.I had forgotten why I was keeping them but I kept them.
Then I re-read them.I was floored. The writing is right, I am not sure how else to explain it.The characters live their lives in smaller English towns and villages, they do this or that yet it is all there.Barbara Pym capturesher people in their lives and their thoughts and writes with wit, respect and affection for them.It seems quite a few of her books have recently been re-issued.I bought them all and am reading them, one at a time, with great pleasure.
Far be it for me to compare any writer to Jane Austen but there it is.

3-0 out of 5 stars Well written, but hardly uplifting
This is a relationship-driven (ie: chick lit in an intellectual kind of way) story. It is a well-written novel about a woman named Emma Howick in her late 30's who, like so many of the other characters populating this novel, seems to be wandering through life without direction and, in Emma's case, seemingly without self-esteem.

Miss Howick is an anthropologist and takes a cottage in a small village because she wants to write a paper on the habits of this small town. There she meets again a fellow anthropologist named Graham Pettifer with whom she had a fling in her college years. He married shortly after their early relationship and when she meets him again, he and his wife are separated.

Here's where it gets sad and you wonder what the author is driving at in her depiction of Emma saying to herself she doesn't know what she feels about Graham and yet she pursues him and lets him treat her badly. I kept wondering when Emma was going to realize she deserved better than this man and/or to question the morality of dating a married man-- especially as it becomes more and more apparent he and his wife are reconciling.

We get introduced to a cast of characters in this book and I am hard put to say that any of them were people I'd like to know. Most were petty, some were bitter, and a good deal were, like Emma, people that had no self-esteem and allowed themselves to be taken advantage of in big and small ways. One of the nicest characters was the rector although, again, it seems Barbara Pym's version of a nice person is someone who lacks self-esteem, is weak-willed, and is ofter pushed about.

I have to also say that one of the things that really annoyed me was how often Pym depicted relationships between two people in which someone was dominant and pushed around the other person. This was typified in the relationship between the rector and his sister who often belittled him in small ways and when she moves in with a roommate becomes dominated by her new companion. I know there are relationships like that out there, but there are also many, many (do you hear me Barbara Pym?) relationships that are healthy where consideration and friendship reign.

The only redeeming part of the whole novel occurs at the end where it is strongly hinted that Emma will find love in the end. Couldn't Ms. Pym have written the novel starting at this period in Emma's life rather than ending the novel this way? Pym is an excellent writer, but why use that talent to sketch characters that are frustrated, petty, and lacking direction in life?

1-0 out of 5 stars Unspeakably Boring
I have read several books by Barbara Pym (Jane & Prudence is her best, in my opinion) and although nothing really happens in her novels, there is nevertheless something compelling about the writing and characters which keeps you reading.
This time, I could only get through the first quarter. I cannot understand why Pym's editors never put the brakes on her obsession with spinterish women who live next to a rectory. I realize that 4 or 5 novels of Pym's is enough for me; this one was particularly excruciating.

When her protagonists are eccentric virginal types who go around quoting Byron, it is tolerable when the setting is pre-WW2 England, or just after. But in this novel, it's the 1970's - a time of emerging feminisim, consciousness raising, and political activism. And yet, once again her characters are meanding through the woods, talking about jumble sales and tea scones and arguing about who is going to arrange the flowers for the church. Enough already. This novel is boring to a degree that is nearly coma-inducing. I'm guess I'm done with Barbara Pym.

5-0 out of 5 stars Less Is So Much More
This novel is so very British, reserved, yet profound. It beautifully celebrates the cerebral machinations of a small Oxfordshire village and portrays the intertwined lives of its aging as well as its younger residents. Symptomatic of changing times, the village has two doctors, a Dr. G who is older and traditional and comforting, unwilling to dispense medicine but more than able to send his patients away with a platitude or bromide; and a younger doctor, geriatrics specialist, far more modern, believing in the cure-all of exercise and perhaps a prescription. Besides the medical comforters is the traditional religious comforter, Reverend Tom, a widower living with his thwarted sister Daphe, who dreams of owning a dog and living on a sun-drenched island in Greece. Reverend Tom is a lovely, harmless man, unable to be bold or aggressive, dreaming of a lost medieval village somewhere in the woods around the town, and preoccupied with history while the present slips away from him. Then there is Emma, an anthropologist, rather plain by her own telling, who has come to the town to recover from a shabby "affair" with a fellow academic, as well as to study small-town village life. After doing something impetuous, she finds herself facing the same rather boring man with which she was slightly entangled and is befuddled again as to what their "relationship," if it can be called that, really means, if anything. "A Few Green Leaves" is really about what is meaningful and beautiful in our lives. So very little can mean so much to us. A true artist, Barbara Pym creates for us these village lives, with their frustrations, their humor, their longings, and their mortality. This was her last artistic effort before her own death two months after its completion. It is a fine work, and I felt the whole way that I was in the secure hands of a master story teller: wise, funny, perceptive, and profoundly literate. Bravo!

2-0 out of 5 stars A few old ideas
This novel was our February Book group text. It was not hard to read and had a restful quality about it. Unfortunately it did not say very much at all to me or other members of the group. Many of the characters were underdeveloped and there were hints at interesting aspects of their personalities but it did not go any further than that, so left me with a feeling of frustration and irritation. I appreciate that her forte is writing about quiet village life and the attention to detail of very mundane events but I think this can be taken too far. ... Read more

7. Jane and Prudence
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 222 Pages (1999-09-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$7.79
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1559212268
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Middle-aged Jane is the well-intentioned but far from perfect clergyman's wife and mother. Prudence, who at 29 is teetering at the edge of spinsterhood, is an attractive, educated working girl. The two best friends share memories of their carefree days at Oxford, leisurely lunches, and gossip, but their ultimate goal is to find a suitable mate for Prudence. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Love, love, love Barbara pym!
Jane and Prudence is the story of two friends--Jane is a middle-aged clergyman's wife, and Prudence is a spinster at the age of 29, "an age that is often rather desperate for a woman who has not yet married." When Jane and her husband move to a small parish, they meet a widower named Fabian Driver, with whom Jane wants to set Prudence up. This novel is a very quiet satire of love and romance and the constant search for them.

Jane and Prudence's friendship is an unlikely one, and it's hard to see why, exactly, they're friends (beyond the fact that they met at Oxford). In addition, I kept wondering why Jane would want to set up her good friend with someone who's a known womanizer. Still, she means well. I think the interplay between the two main characters is well done. Of the two, I think I prefer Jane with her hapless housekeeping over Prudence, who seems a bit arrogant at times. I think in a different age (say, ours), Prudence would be just anther career woman living in London (and she'd have a much better job). If she lived today, though, there would still be a focus on getting her set up with a boyfriend or husband, so not much has changed there.

I did also like Nicholas, Jane's husband, who puts up with Jane's flaws with an admirable amount of patience. There's a lot of humor in this book, but some of it is downright mean at times.

Still, Barbara Pym is at her best when she's talking about the relationships between men and women. She has some very interesting things to say about the state of being married, or not. I think the reason why Barbara Pym's novels appeal to people even today is that her themes are so wide-ranging and timeless.

5-0 out of 5 stars How life works out, and doesn't
Part of what leaves me gasping about Barbara Pym the perfection with which she captures how people adapt to yearning, pettiness, and disillusionment: their own and those with whom they live. Her characters behave with civility and even gentility and yet --

In so many ways, these people break faith with each other and, more lethally, with themselves. Ennui and its traveling companion, laziness, undermine good intentions. A veneer of goodwill barely conceals condescension and even scorn. And is it really gossip if, when talking about somebody, we choose our words carefully and our concern is more or less genuine?

We look at each other more clearly than we will ever be able to look at ourselves. Still, others are capable of surprising us, of acting against everything we believed of them. But the ability to shake things up depends largely on how we respond to darting moments of insight. We make decisions, Pym implies, especially when we decide to do nothing.

This novel re-works some aspects of Pym's earliest novel, Crampton Hodnet. In particular, the dynamics between a spinster and her companion (whose names and other characteristics she reprises) play out differently and perhaps more satisfyingly. The story itself could be said to be painted on a larger canvas, but more subtly.

I regularly reread this book and others by Pym because I enjoy her stories. But I do so knowing that she will challenge me, in the nicest possible way, to look at how I live with others and, even more cunningly, she will dare me to look at how I live with myself.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best
Of the 4 Pym novels I have read so far (Excellent Women, Glass of Blessings, An Unsuitable Attachment), this is my favorite. On her favorite subject, the relationship between men and women, Pym is at her most profound and funniest, often in the same sentence.

1-0 out of 5 stars do these characters like each other?
I am very surprised at the high praise for this book.I found the language to be awkward and stiff, but the biggest problem for me was the fact that the characters were not likable or believable.There was nothing about Jane and Prudence that made me believe the two of em would be friends, they didn't even seem to like each other.Why on earth would you hook your friend up with someone who is a serial cheater?I was glad it when it was over, even staying up late just to end the misery.

5-0 out of 5 stars Married, not married
Prudence Bates is 29 and Jane Cleveland 41.Prudence was Jane's pupil at Oxford.Jane is married to Nicholas, a curate.She has one child, Flora.Moving to a new living in the country, a Mrs. Glaze is to help the Clevelands at their vicarage.Prudence in London is enjoying the rapture and misery of her love for Arthur Grampian, a middle-aged married man who is her employer.

Jane and Nicholas have to go out to eat when Mrs. Glaze and Flora are not present because Jane doesn't know what is available in their kitchen.Jane goes to London for a meeting and meets Prudence there.Prudence feels that Jane has kept her independence more than most of her married friends.Nevetheless, her research on obscure seventeenth century poets has come to nothing.

The book presents a merry game of changing relationships at the office in London and in the village parish.It is great fun. ... Read more

8. Glass of Blessings: A Novel
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 256 Pages (2008-08-01)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1559213531
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Well dressed and looked after, Wilmet, the novel's heroine, is married to Rodney, a handsome army major, who works nine thirty to six at the Ministry. Wilmet's interest wanders to the nearby Anglo-Catholic church, where at last she can neglect her comfortable household in the company of a cast of characters, including three priests. Set in 1950s London, this witty novel is told through the narration of the shallow and self-absorbed protagonist who, despite her flaws, begins to learn something about love and about herself. Through Wilmet's superficial monologues readers are exposed to Barbara Pym's clever commentary on class, the church, and her engaging characterizations. Readers will become captivated, as is Wilmet, with the lives and personalities of characters such as the kleptomaniac Wilf Bason, the priests Keith, andPiersLongridge. She fancies herself in love with Piers, the brother of a close friend, and imagines he is her secret admirer (the admirer is in fact her friend's husband). Wilmet fails to realise that Piers is gay until she becomes aware of his relationship with Keith, a young man she regards as rather common. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Dated Story
I bought this because it was the selection for a bookgroup I'm in.It is a bit dated.I'm not moved to read anymore of her books.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
Barbara Pym has written another entertaining novel while giving insights into her characters minds and motivations.

4-0 out of 5 stars Emma Woodhouse in taxicabs
Blessed with money, position, and marital stability, Wilmet Forsyth lives in the heart of London with her husband and mother-in-law and tries to spice up her staid life by imagining the possibility of romance coming to her from handsome clergymen or lonely bachelor friends. The intertext for Pym's 1958 novel is clearly Jane Austen's EMMA, with the main character again trying to offset the end of narrative possibilities for herself that marriage brings. Philip Larkin praised A GLASS OF BLESSINGS as the subtlest of Pym's comedies, and although it's depiction of grace operating among the very respectable and genteel is very charming and even ultimately moving it is not one of her funnier books (in part because it is told from Wilmet's point of view and she, unlike Pym's more disadvantaged heroines, is so limited in her outlook). But the novel is pretty joyful nonetheless, and its depiction of a 1950s London gay subculture at the end of the book is fairly fascinating.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good works are for the old and middle aged, not for youth
This is truly a great book.In all of its proportions it is graceful and beguiling.Themes of love are presented with humor.

St. Luke's head is called, Pym-like, Father Thames.At the service, Wilmet Forsyth, wife of Rodney a civil servant, meets her friend Rowena's brother, Piers Longridge.She and her friend Rowena were Wrens during the war.They met each other and their husbands while stationed in Italy.

When Wilmet visits Rowena and her family in the country she goes to the country church.It seems to her that country churches are surrounded by graves and yew trees.Wilmet learns that Father Thames carries a sense of disappointment that he never became an Archdeacon.There is a reception held in honor of the new assistant, Father Ransome.

Wilmet and her mother-in-law Sybil decide to take evening classes from Piers in Portuguese.Wilmet explains to Piers that she was named for a character in a Charlotte Yonge novel.She gives blood and is drafted to help an acquaintance, Mary, find a suitable dress.It is possible that Wilmet is being pursued by both Piers and Rowena's husband, Harry.She find the Christmas Eve service beautiful and exhausting. She attends service alone since Sybil and Rodney are agnostics.Sybil remarks that she doesn't know what is expected when Christians pray for the sick.

When one of the communicants, (Mary),experiences her mother's death, she joins an order, but decides later that she is not suited to religious life.In the end Mary and Father Ransome marry and Sybil marries too, causing Rodney and Wilmet to be turned out of her house.Rodney and Wilmet find an appropriate flat in the vicinity.A bare outline of the plot does not do justice to the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A most enjoyable Book
Jilly Cooper says that Barbara Pym's books remind her "of what is true.....about English life". In the case of A Glass of blessings, this refers to a very small, but significant part of 1950's English life in the 1950's, and Barbara Pym portrays it beautifully. Her characterisation is excellent, as are her descriptions. She must have been a very observant woman. To say that she is snobbish is unfair. She portrayed her part of the world as she saw it. And note that the very implicit sexual backdrop never has to be referred to explicitly at all.

Whetehr the fifties were "better" than now is open to doubt: but if you want a picture of a small part of 1950's England, then this is an enjoyable way to find it. ... Read more

9. Some Tame Gazelle
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 322 Pages (1999-03-14)
list price: US$11.95 -- used & new: US$7.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1559212640
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Barbara Pym is a master at capturing the subtle mayhem that takes place in the apparent quiet of the English countryside. Fifty-something sisters Harriet and Belinda Bede live a comfortable, settled existence. Belinda, the quieter of the pair, has for years been secretly in love with the town's pompous (and married) archdeacon, whose odd sermons leave members of his flock in muddled confusion. Harriet, meanwhile, a bubbly extrovert, fends off proposal after proposal of marriage. The arrival of Mr. Mold and Bishop Grote disturb the peace of the village and leave the sisters wondering if they'll ever return to the order of their daily routines. Some Tame Gazelle, first published in Britain nearly 50 years ago, was the first of Pym's nine novels. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars Timeless
Barbara Pym's subtle humor never falls flat.Like spending time with a witty, shy, self-effacing friend with a laser eye for human strengths and foibles.

4-0 out of 5 stars An old English village story
I agree with previous reviews that Barbara Pym's novel follows a "Pride and Prejudice" theme but with more subtlety and very fine observation. After finishing the book I felt that I knew these people and their village (or at least the "society" part of it) and thankfully (as with Jane Austen) the writer isn't troubled by the modern egalitarian obligation. Servants open and shut doors and cook the meals without becoming central characters.

5-0 out of 5 stars Trollope in the 20th Century
I have read the reviews of this marvelous novel and am amazed at some of the reactions plus the review that went on and on about the characters and their actions without ever capturing the humor or the inherent truth in these characters.I did not know that this was the first "adult" novel that Pym wrote.Along with The Sweet Dove Died, it is my absolute favorite and captures English life in a small town in a certain time as Trollope did on a bigger canvas in his novels of English life in the Victorian time.The sisters are stark contrasts of personality and temperament: Harriet, pudgy, flirtatious and afraid to be taken seriously runs from romance when it is presented to her; Belinda, more dour, introspective and hopelessly infatuated with the biggest fathead in the area--the Archbishop--maintains her crush thereby avoiding romance as it comes to her as well.She is not unlike Scarlet O'Hara--obsessed with someone who, when the time arrives, finally realizes what a dullard he is, just as Scarlet finally realizes how weak Ashley is and how she has wasted her time longing for him.Unlike Melanie, however, who understood and complimented Ashley, the Archbishop's wife seems fully aware of his faults, his pompous personality and, one assumes from the story, would not think twice about giving him to Belinda and declaring "good riddance" if the opportunity so presented.This perfect portrait of the silliness and sweetness and little dramas of everyday life even in a small town is beautifully painted by Ms. Pym who was a portraitist equal to Trollope or Austin.I loved this book and have re-read it several times as I have with Pride and Prejudice and Emma.Open it up, settle down somewhere comfortable and enjoy the personalities we so often meet in life and who are so artfully drawn by Ms. Pym.

3-0 out of 5 stars Too tame by half
Barbara Pym said her plan for her first published novel was to imagine what life night be like for her and her sister a few decades in the future; what she came up with was something like a vision of life in Agatha Christie's St. Mary Mead without the murders, or in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford without the quirkiness (or the sense of despair always lurking underneath). This 1950 novel is mostly populated by unmarried clergymen and unmarried "excellent women," the shabby-genteel helpmeets that have become known as the basic staple of Pym's fiction. These same types of characters, however, seem to do much more in Pym's subsequent novels, where her sense of fictive construction becomes more adventurous and more of an awareness of the wider world can be glimpsed through the teas and charity jumbles. Everything here is a little bit too safe, too cozy; this mutes the humor considerably too (whereas in later novels she allows for more comparative risk-taking and so her scenarios are much funnier). It's all a bit depressing, and it is certainly not the place to start with Barbara Pym if you want to discover and enjoy this still-overlooked British novelist; this was the first of her books I tried, and it was so disappointing I stayed away for nearly two decades, little realizing how much funnier and more sophisticated books of hers like EXCELLENT WOMEN and LESS THAN ANGELS really are.

5-0 out of 5 stars How English
The characters present at the opening of the book are the young curate, Belinda, and Harriet.Harriet's manner is blunt and jolly.Belinda and Harriet Bede are sisters.Neither has married.

Belinda loved the archdeacon when she was twenty.The archdeacon is miffed because Lady Clara Boulding attends the church of a rival, Edward Plowman.Lady Clara is the daughter of an earl and the widow of a member of parliament.The archdeacon tends to hate the garden party as an event.

Edith Livesidge, one of the local residents, is probably called splended because she is tough and wiry and is apt to dig vigorously in her garden.Agatha Hoccleve, wife of the archdeacon, has very good clothes.The servants call the archdeacon the Venerable Hoccleve.Lady Clara Boulding is to open the party officially.Opening parties is her chief recreation.Edward Plowman thinks the archdeacon enjoys showing off his knowledge.

Next the wife of the archdeacon goes off on vacation and the sisters, and probably everyone else in the village, take note of the leave-taking.Harriet has a tendancy to spoil all of the young curates.This becomes significant to the plot in two ways.First there is the marriage of the current office-holder.Then there is the visit of a former young curate who, amusingly, has managed to become both a bishop and a missionary to Africa.

During the absence of the archdeacon's wife, his friends, librarians, Mr. Mold and Dr. Parnell, pay a visit.Harriet and Belinda have a very successful dinner party for them and for others.Harriet receives a marraige proposal from Mr. Mold, which is declined.The bishop later proposes to Belinda, and that too is declined.Belinda explains that she is not in love with the suitor.

The star of the novel is Belinda.She is kind, dowdy, and self-conscious. ... Read more

10. Civil to Strangers
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 388 Pages (1989-01-01)
list price: US$8.95
Isbn: 0452261384
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This novel originally called Adam and Cassandra was written in 1936 about the time of SOME TAME GAZELLE, when Pym was in her 20's. CIVIL TO STRANGERS takes place in small Shropshire village. The charm of Budapest and a Hungarian by the name of Stefan Tilos find there way into this quiet novel. The people of the Shropshire village are forever changed by his influence. ... Read more

11. Felicity and Barbara Pym
by Harrison Solow
Paperback: 208 Pages (2010-05)
list price: US$14.20 -- used & new: US$9.28
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1907090118
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Not out of print!
This book is certainly not out of print. As the publisher I can assure readers it's still in the finishing stages of editing and is due for release in May 2010 - and that has always been the target date. It's well worth the wait. This is an extraordinary book, an innovative epistolary creative nonfiction, introducing readers not only to the works of Pym in accessible style with great wit, but also to the peculiarities of Englishness, with something to say about Americanness along the way. ... Read more

12. An Academic Question (Plume)
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 192 Pages (1987-09-01)
list price: US$9.00 -- used & new: US$19.91
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Asin: 0452259967
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Quietly witty and humane. However, it is one of her lesser established novels.
A reader not familiar with the works of Barbara Pym might come away from reading An Academic Question less than enthused. Hence, it would behoove them to read her Booker Prize nominated Quartet in Autumn first and put this one last on the list. Written during her "silent" years when she was unable to get a publisher to represent her work, An Academic Question centers primarily on Caroline Grimstone, the wife of an academic who finds herself embroiled in the studious affairs of her husband, Alan, a climbing intellectual wannabe whose book smarts are all that he has going for him. He truly is a one dimensional character if ever there was one. Yet, having worked in academia myself, the caricature of Alan is not too off the mark and certainly not a literary failing of Pym's. She has his dullish and repressed mannerism pretty much down pat. Unfortunately, that's essentially it with him. Though as a character I found him less than interesting, it is Alan who gets the ball rolling by having his bored wife, Caroline, act as a thief on his behalf. In academia, it is vital to get published, to get a name established, for that can lead to tenure, research grants, name recognition and endowed chairs. Alan wants that, for even though he is an up-and-comer, he is still a junior professor with very limited credentials. The story begins to move forward when a former missionary with research papers of profound academic interest to Alan and a competing professor named Crispin Maynard, is moved into Normanhurst, a large, Edwardian detached house where retirees go to spend their twilight years. Ever the opportunist, Alan nudges his wife to "volunteer" at the home and perhaps help herself to his private papers in order to enhance his own writings, for his speciality is a form of sociological anthropology. However, his own writings need to be beefed up a bit. A loving wife to the end, she complies. And in the process of doing so, she enters a phase internal contemplation about how she wound up acting as a kind of university spy for her husband. The absurdity of her actions begin to hit home, and she ponders about her own intelligence and also being reduced to something mirroring a Barbara Cartland novel without the romance. Without a true support system to help her out, she is reduced to the eccentric people around her, mainly Dolly Arborfield, an "antiques" dealer with a bizarre penchant for, of all things, hedgehogs and Coco Jeffreys, a rather gossipy and effeminate male Caribbean expert who works in her husband's department. Together, they are her counsel. But she would do well without them. The latter thinks she should have an affair, apparently the most daring act that a quasi nonplussed academic can take in order to find themselves. Yet, that is not her speed. Ultimately, the missionary does die, and his papers get housed in the university library where academics can sift through the research treasures. And right on cue, Alan recommends that Caroline work part-time at the library, to "occupy" some of her free time, fill out index cards and label books. And while she's at it, help herself to some of the research papers. Again, she complies and succeeds. Her reward for her devotion? Well, a reader will just have to find that out for him or herself. For me, I thought it was repellent, and Barbara Pym, in a way, does ask for forgiveness. It is only though internal contemplation and the nutty characters that make Caroline see beyond the the monotony and dullness of her marriage and life in academia, for it changes into comforting consistency and a place of development, a constant academic test to study and conquer. Life. And in the end, Caroline Grimestone becomes an A+ student, precisely because she is able to navigate around the ridiculousness of life. While an Academic Question may not be the best of Pym's literary output, it definitely has her mark on it. And it was appropriate that she chose academia for the conveyance of this particular message. It is witty, subtle and very lightly imbued with an almost unnoticed dark edge.

1-0 out of 5 stars Quick, but depressing read
This book is a rigidly light-hearted portrayal of a woman, Caroline, trying to figure out what she should be doing. Married to an academic, and dissatisfied with being a housewife she attempts to fill her time by reading to residents at a retirement home. Her husband becomes very interested in the individual that Caroline is reading to, and steals a manuscript to further his research.

The cynical disrespect and disregard that Caroline, her husband, and all the characters exhibit for ethics or pretense of social feeling is no doubt intended to amuse. Since her best friend is a hedgehog-fancier one cannot help but imagine that this is supposed to be a comedic story. Perhaps it is the distance in time (the book was published posthumously in 1986), but rather than humorous the characters are repellent, the plot depressing, the racism irritating. This is the type of book that might be interesting when published, but is quickly outmoded.

2-0 out of 5 stars I didn't get it
I had never read any of Barbara Pym's books before, but had heard she was a good writer, so when I came across this in a library, I tried it out. Perhaps it was the 1970s time period, but I had trouble understanding the motivations of many of the characters. Caro, the narrator, is a "University wife" whose husband teaches something unspecified in the Anthropology dept. of a provincial university. Caro herself is bored with her life, but doesn't seem to have the gumption to do anything about it. She's interested in very little, including her own child (the couple employs a full-time Swedish nanny although Caro doesn't work), and seems to just drift along, not very well-treated by those around her. When her husband commits an unethical act to further his research paper, Caro hardly seems aware that it is wrong, and never says anything about it to him. Dramatic events are quickly leached of any momentum: an adulterous affair is briefly agonized over, and then never mentioned again; thefts go unnoticed; an ex-lover shows up briefly, then disappears. The most interesting characters, Caro's flamboyant friend Coco and his diva mother, merely provide background color, and never further the story. If Pym intended to create a portrait of a dull, modern life, she succeeded, but I can't say the book does anything for the reader. Although her writing style is fairly engaging, it doesn't make up for the characters' lack of initiative. If you want to feel as frustrated as they are, read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars An old man with a box
Professor Maynard always gave a party at the beginning of autumn.Caroline Grimstone, Caro, is the narrator of the book.She is married to Alan and has a four year old daughter, Kate.The university had grown up from a local technical college.Crispin Maynard heads Alan's department.

The Pym voice is fully present in this work, notwithstanding the fact that Hazel Holt used two drafts to make a coherent whole of this posthumous work.A mother and son couple, Coco, (Corcoran), and Kitty Jeffreys are friends of Alan and Caro and also attend the party.Coco is a research fellow in Caribbean Studies.Crispin is an historian and Alan an anthropologist, and both men are specialists in the study of pre-literate peoples.Iris Horniblow is someone who is new in the department and Caro wonders if Alan is interested in her.Dolly Arborfield is a friend and the sister of Kitty Jeffreys.Her interests run to old books, junk, and animals.In her sixties, it seems that Dolly has rather lost contact with people.

Through Dolly Arborfield, Caro pursues good works by going to an old peoples' home, Normanhurst, to read to a missionary living there.The paper read is one authored by Crispin Maynard.The missionary, Mr. Stillingfeet, has a box of papers that even Crispin Maynard has not seen.In a Henry James-like plot, Caro and Alan distract the old missionarya day prior to his deathwith a bag of crisps while Alan gains entry to the box.Later, Caro, a volunteer at the university library, has to find a way to secrete the manuscript in the librarian's office.Alan, an up and coming academic, uses the information gained in a piece for a scholarly journal.It turns out that Crispin knows what has transpired, at least sort of. There is the suggestion in the book that Crispin would have used the advantage gained from seeing the papers had he been in Alan's shoes.

What Caro really thinks of the matter is not fully disclosed.Everything is treated in a tone of irony.This is a very good, and completely modern, book.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not her best
I have read all of Barbara Pym's published works and I find that this is one of her weaker offerings. In this book she leaves her spinsters and has a married woman with a child for her heroine. She doesn't seem comfortablewith this heroine. The scenes with the child are a little stilted. Shedoesn't seem as real or as interesting as Mildred of "ExcellentWomen" or even Wilmet of "A Glass of Blessings" her othermarried heroine. But, as a fan I enjoyed the book. It was interesting tosee her outside her usual cast of characters. There are some really goodparts, especially those dealing with the academics where she is on familiarground. ... Read more

13. Barbara Pym Omnibus
Paperback: 704 Pages

Isbn: 0330339664
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14. Crampton Hodnet
by Barbara Pym
Paperback: 224 Pages (2005-01-01)
list price: US$12.95
Isbn: 1559212438
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Unsuitable romance is the theme of this wickedly comedic novel. A series of entanglements brings together an odd assortment of characters - clergymen, university dons, naive students, and academic hangers-on - with hilarious results. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

3-0 out of 5 stars Gentle English Life
This is a somewhat ordinary tale about an ordinary village in England. Barbara Pym is a gentle writer and treats her characters with respect and so it is a pleasant read for a rainy day or a long flight, but there is nothing exciting or gripping about the story and it is hard to get pulled in to the emotional side of it. A young spinster, past her prime, has a chance at a single vicar and doesn't quite pull it off. A middle-aged college professor whose marriage has become dull tries to have an affair with a student and doesn't quite pull that off either. The whole concept of Crampton Hodnet I thought had a lot of promise and I rather wish she had developed that whole theme a little more. A rather dull end to a dull saga about ordinary people living boring lives in England. As a sort of documentary about everyday life it has some value and its certainly not offensive in any way but I didn't get really why Barbara Pym appears to have quite a following. I will not pick up another of her novels.

5-0 out of 5 stars Timeless Reading Pleasure
I sent this book to a younger friend, in her early thirties, for Christmas, thinking that she would enjoy the writing and the humor.Her thank you note read:"I just finished CRAMPTON HODNET last night and LOVED IT!"

If you haven't read any books by Barbara Pym, get CRAMPTON HODNET today!

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfectly Pym
Barbara Pym is a writer with a light touch and a wonderful sense of humor.I enjoy reading and re-reading her novels for the atmosphere she creates around her cast of earnest British students, church ladies, professors, vicars, aunts, and spinster companions as they mix and mingle, wonder and worry, take tea, attend jumble sales and go about their middle-class lives.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant Read
Haveing never read a Barbara Pym book, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I did find was a book that had me going back and forth between chuckling and feeling horribly sorry for some of the characters. Barbara Bird didn't elicite any feelings of affection...quite the opposite. She was so caught up in academia and unrequitted love, that that is how she thought her affair with Mr. Cleveland was supposed to panout. Miss Doggett made me think of Hyasinth "Bouquet" and had me laughing out loud at times. I couldn't stand Mr. Killegrew and his mother. They had nothing better to do then meddle in everyone elses business. The characters I admired the most were Miss Morrow, Mrs. Cleveland and Mrs. Wardell. Mrs. Clevelands dusty house, her shopping trip to London...all true to life and not caring what anyone else thought...or trying not to. The dons and the students, trying to keep up academic pretense...haveing worked in academia for many, many years, I have to say that this is all too true. The pettiness is there, the nosiness, the one-upmanship...it's all there. Reading this book made me glad to be out of a college envrionment and away from that classist and elitist society, which Pym so very aptly writes about!

A slow, gentle read which I think you'll enjoy.

5-0 out of 5 stars The best book ever written, well it might be, who knows
I completely disagree with the 'one star' reviewer.He or she hit the nail on the head with the observation that it was completely unfair that the 36 year old curate gets a nineteen year old girl while the 36 year old woman is an isolated spinster.That's exactly what is great about this book.The observation that a talented, kindly, humorous, intelligent woman is socially 'worthless' compared to a fairly buffoonish man of a similar (middle) age is one of the things that makes this book brilliantly -- not exactly dark, but certainly unwavering.And Pym's lovely, detailed, understated style makes every page an incomparable treat.Incomparable, because Pym's literary gift doesn't shout at you -- I don't know why she wrote, but you don't get the impression it was with Proustian status in mind, thank goodness.Or maybe with literary status in mind, but the thought must have been accompanied by the sort of self awareness that few people possess -- I don't -- that allows them to thwart their desire to impress and instead lets them simply impress through their service (in this case, to the reader). I can't describe the richness of her style, but it is incredibly evocative without ever distracting from the narrative of her story.She combines Colette's facility with detail with the humility of -- a popular novelist?I love Barbara Pym's books and I am so grateful to her for writing them.I recommend that every woman read them, and every man who likes reading too. ... Read more

15. A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym
by Hazel Holt
 Paperback: 320 Pages (1992-07-01)
list price: US$12.00
Isbn: 0452268222
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This official biography of Barbara Pym, the writer, describes her upbringing in Oswestry and her life in Oxford. The author talks about the successes as well as the dark years in the writer's life when she was unpublished. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars a splendid background for Pym's splendid work; biography
The restraint and economy with which the author approaches her subjectonly enhance the richness of the work.With a wealth of detail,Hazel Holtsets the jewel of Pym's works in the setting of her life.For example,paraphrasing:"Hilary and I reckoned up the reasons people had leftour parish church:Rome, Death, and Umbrage.Umbrage, of course, removedthe greatest number."Those who have enjoyed Pym's work would do wellto read this book before other secondary sources. ... Read more

16. a la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery Book
by Hilary Pym, Barbara Pym, Honor Wyatt
Hardcover: 101 Pages (1995-10)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$17.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0907325610
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Compiled by her sister, this is a collection of recipes from Barbara Pym's kitchen notebooks, together with food-related extracts from her novels. ... Read more

17. Civil to Strangers and Other Writings (Plume)
by Barbara Pym
 Paperback: 398 Pages (1989-01-01)
list price: US$10.00 -- used & new: US$95.82
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0452264537
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Barbara Pym's greatest fan
Barbara Pym is one of my very favorite authors, and this was the only work of hers I had not yet read.Although the spy story was a bit clunky, all the rest was a great pleasure to read, particularly when encountering characters from other stories or novels.Like Jane Austen, to whom Pym is so often compared, the only disappointment arises from the fact that there is no more to read.I've probably read each Pym novel at least three times, and in some cases even more than that.An insightful, comforting, and enjoyable read. ... Read more

18. All This Reading: The Literary World of Barbara Pym
Hardcover: 248 Pages (2003-03)
list price: US$46.50 -- used & new: US$47.18
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Asin: 0838639569
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Twenty-one years after her death, Barbara Pym's novelscontinue to be read and reread, discussed and debated by discerningreaders. Her unique legacy is the world she created, one that isrecognizably hers alone. These eighteen essays by noted scholars andcritics examine the theme of reading in Pym's books. Through theirvarious fresh approaches to the possibilities of readerlyidentification, a new and compellingly progressive image of BarbaraPym emerges that of an author engaged in an ongoing dialogue with thosewho consider reading a reciprocal act. The first part of the bookexamines the significance of reading in Pym works, both of her bookishheroines as well as for the author herself. The second part revealsliterary encounters and collaborations in her life and works. Thediversity and originality of these thoughtful contributions ensure apermanent place for Barbara Pym in twentieth-century literature. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars in praise of "All This Reading"
In my opinion "All This Reading" is the best collection of essays written about Barbara Pym to date. The articles are allwell written and full with insights, yet are diverse in their apprach. Asa doctorate student writing a dissertation on Barbara Pym I findthe articles very useful For exampleit was illuminatingto read two totally opposing, but well thought of, views by John Bayley and Ellie Wymard,regarding
Pym's attitude to organized religion. Yet, the essays are general and interesting enough for any one who is interested in Barbara Pym.
I highly recommend "All This Reading".

Orna Raz

5-0 out of 5 stars A must-have for Pym Fans and Bibliophiles
"All This Reading" is an essential addition to the libraries of Barbara Pym fans and an engaging introduction to Pym for new readers. The collection of essays features wise and sensitive insights into the theme of reading in Pym's books. Part I addresses this theme with a variety of topics, from "Love Like Bedsocks" to ". . . Metaphors of Aging and Death". Part II presents fascinating personal and literary encounters with Pym and her writing, including'My First Reader' by Hazel Holt, Pym's long time friend and literary executor, and 'Barbara Pym as Comforter' by John Bayley, whose essay ends with a poignant personal note about the importance of Pym's novels to him and his wife, the novelist Iris Murdoch, who died in 1999.

The expertly compiled index by Hazel Bell, in addition to serving as the indispensable tool for locating references and topics, provides an revealing look at the wide range of motifs and people mentioned by Pym and her readers, from anthropology to writers and writing, from Jane Austen to Charlotte Yonge.

This is a book to keep close at hand -- readers will find themselves dipping into it repeatedly for diversion, instruction, entertainment, and contemplation.

5-0 out of 5 stars A novelist with a very special quality
In 1980, when Jane Nardin first came across the novels of Barbara Pym, as she remarks, `almost no literary criticism had yet been written' of Pym's work, while Dale Salwak, in his epilogue to All This Reading, records the `appearance since 1985 of twenty full-length book studies or anthologies, with more soon to arrive'. An extraordinary growth of interest, which is now further reflected in the publication of this stimulating collection of nineteen new essays. Part I examines the significance of reading in the novels; Part II is devoted to literary encounters and collaborations in Pym's life and works. Hazel Bell's index successfully draws together the threads running through the contributions by various hands, allowing the reader to trace, for example, references to spinsterhood in the essays of Frauke Elisabeth Lenckos, Katherine Anne Ackley, Barbara Everett, Helen Clare Taylor, Anthony Kaufman, Anne Pilgrim and Barbara Dunlap.

In attempts to pin down Pym's special quality as a novelist, she has been compared to, and with, a quite disparate list of writers, from Jane Austen to Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth von Arnim, E. M. Delafield and a whole host of other names, many listed by Lenckos in her introduction. Kaufman compares the rivalry of Belinda and Agatha in Some Tame Gazelle to the humour of E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia, and Everett commends Pym's `high originality' which sets her fiction `far above the intransigently reactionary ... Angela Thirkell'. Dunlap, tracing the influence on Pym of Charlotte M. Yonge, asserts that `Pym's fiction is steeped in the work of Yonge' (even the unusual name of the heroine of A Glass of Blessings, Wilmet, is borrowed from a very different heroine of Yonge's).

To what extent are Pym's novels autobiographical, and her well-read heroines reflections of herself? Orphia Jane Allen, writing on `Reading Pym Autobiographically', comments that `Pym was aware that she could permit herself to become like Leonora' (in The Sweet Dove Died), but Leonora represents only `one of the directions an aging, unmarried woman's life could take'. The most obvious incarnation of Pym's own personality is Belinda in Some Tame Gazelle, with her near-obsessive love of literary quotation. Pilgrim notes that, while Archdeacon Hoccleve and Bishop Grote quote aloud, sometimes not very felicitously, and Harriet `tends to be oblivious to literary references', Belinda `hardly ever quotes aloud, but silently recollects and meditates upon scores of passages, many of them quite obscure', and Nardin also finds significance in the fact that Belinda keeps her literary references to herself, `restrained by a sense of personal modesty and strict propriety at once pathological and deeply lovable'. In being made privy to Belinda's interior monologue, the reader is at the same time granted access to the author's own stream of consciousness.

As Ackley points out, Pym `often blurs the distinction between literature and life', suggesting in various ways that some of her characters have lives outside her fictional world. Dulcie in No Fond Return of Love, who cannot resist prying into people's lives, finds it `so much safer and more comfortable to live in the lives of others'. Pym's characters, says Ackley, `view the world as if they, too, were writers', and Nardin writes that `in Pym's novels, there is a tension between the impulse to read and the impulse to contextualize or interpret'.

The inner monologues of Pym's heroines reveal her own uncertainties and need for reassurance. Pilgrim comments on Belinda's habitual alternation between self-doubt, `expressed in her diffidence, timidity and constant anxiety', and self-confidence. Everett remarks on the unpretentiousness of Pym's early novels, and adds that the modesty of her approach `possibly worked to Pym's disadvantage during the period when her manuscripts were being rejected' and `makes her too easy to dismiss now'. Surveying the six earlier novels, she considers these thoroughly enjoyable but `probably minor art', while Quartet in Autumn is to her mind a major work. She finds Excellent Women the `most accomplished,... the most admirably competent', and has a kind word for An Unsuitable Attachment - it `has a first-rate cat and a wholly believable public library'.

These are only some examples of the many rich insights provided by All This Reading. Further pleasures are provided in the second part of the volume, such as the reproduction in the essay by Paul De Angelis of Pym's letters to him of 1978-9, almost up to the time of her death in January 1980, and of A Year in West Oxfordshire, Pym's contribution to Ronald Blythe's anthology Places of 1981.

Janice Rossen's essay, `Philip Larkin: Barbara Pym's Ideal Reader', discusses the crucial role played by `virtually the only fellow writer with whom she discussed her work in progress'. Larkin's influence and advice were clearly of great importance to her: not only was he able to give her very specific and practical advice, but he was a writer of established reputation who treated her as an equal and gave her `constant reassurances that her work was of extraordinary value'.

And not least, there is an account of thirty years of friendship and collaboration by Hazel Holt, Pym's literary executor, who tells us that she no longer reads Barbara Pym. `I don't need to. ...once you've read the novels, she is with you forever.'

5-0 out of 5 stars Reading Barbara Pym
Eudora Welty found Pym's novels to be "quiet, paradoxical and sad." I think she described them perfectly.All this Reading explores the life, novels and publication of Pym.The book comprises a series of essays by many distinguised contributors.Educated at St. Hilda's college, Osford, she joined the Wrens during WWII and was posted to Naples.Her novels draw on her circle of college friends and her military life.Her writing highlights the theme "only connect" from Howard's End by Forster.
In Katherine Ackley's essay, she suggests Pym's characters are devoted to literature.They recite passages from an Austen novel or a Donne poem.Literature is a source of comfort to them.In John Bayley's essay, he further seees Pym as a comforter.He expands upon Matthew Arnold's theme that great art calms and comforts us, and he cites Pym as such a writer.Bayley notes that Pym's confidence about the sexes comes "from her sense of the arbitrary, almost ruthless, way they join up."
In "A Life Ruined by Literature", Elisabeth Lenckos argues that reading is a central theme in Pym's novels.The related topics of reading, romance and redemption are central in her novels. In A Few Green Leaves, the heroine Emma Howick recalls Austen's Emma.She stars in her own drama of misplaced affection, rejection and humiliation before leaving romantic fantasy behind.Lenckos suggests that Pym's world is like Austen's where the gentlewomen of reduced circumstances in post-war England have moved from manor houses to village cottages, and work part time in gentile jobs as librarians, clerks and social helpers.. "Like Austen's heroines their desire is to find a loving partner with whom to share life...."Those who love literature will find the nineteen essays in All this Reading satisfy every taste in a fine collection. ... Read more

19. Social Dimensions in the Novels of Barbara Pym, 1949-1963:
by Orna Raz
 Hardcover: 228 Pages (2007-04-09)
list price: US$109.95 -- used & new: US$109.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0773453873
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This study considers the six novels written by English novelist, Barbara Pym (1913-1980), between 1949 and 1963, which demonstrate the response of a specific class of people, represented by her heroines, to the dramatic social, cultural and demographic changes that took place in Britain at the time.Treating Pym s 1950s novels as social-historical sources, this work attempts to analyze the way in which her portrayals of society, like those of so many other English writers, served both as testimonies and critiques of the times in which she lived.The focal point of Pym s novels was the interaction between the individual and the community: the Church, the parish or the work place.Therefore, this book attempts to reconstruct the social world of the female protagonists, moving from the public to the private domain, thereby opening up Pym s novels to a new generation of readers. ... Read more

20. The Subversion of Romance in the Novels of Barbara Pym
by Tsagaris
Paperback: 198 Pages (1998-01-01)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$11.90
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0879727640
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This book seeks to explore how Barbara Pym subverts the discourse of the romance novel through her use of food, clothes, heroine and hero characterizations, and marriage customs.

... Read more

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