Friday, 28 January 2011

Pym, Barbara

I realise as I work out this post that I am truly fascinated by Barbara Pym. It was quite by accident that the title Excellent Women was even found in the dustiest section of the university library last year. Literature isn't a big course at Jordanstown, and I hadn't ever shelved there before, as I haven't since.

I married at thirty, and suspect that the single woman in me rejoices loudly at the triumphalism of single women in her books. As I said here, I can't think of another feminist writer who celebrates the single life in this way. Admittedly I haven't read enough feminist writing by far- I brought myself up on 1980s Cosmopolitan columnists. (As distinct from present day Cosmopolitans!)

Since last year I've read Excellent Women, Some Tame Gazelle and now Jane and Prudence. Not in precisely the right order, I know, but I think I will be carrying on through the list. What I loved most about the first two was the sparkle: the sharp, crystal decanter and stockings at dawn sparkle and crack of satirical observation. And the down to a crisp starched linen summer dress of a reflection of church politics!

Last Friday night we had January's Book Club. I brought the sherry, Niqi brought the crackers and fish paste, Lorraine served tea and cucumber sandwiches from fine china. We do like to theme our catering around the book! It was, I think, the best night we'd had yet!

But Jane and Prudence is different. It's sad. The overall tone is of the "ravenous hours" eating away at Jane's life. Square peg in a round hole- acknowledged by all to be rubbish at her job of vicar's wife. I decided that the regret stems from the fact that the protagonist's perspective is that of a married woman. The resident singleton (is Bridget Jones as good as it gets now for triumphant single women?) ultimately fails. The spunk here comes from the determined, oh so schemingly determined, Jesse Morrow who amazingly wins the delphinium blue eyes of Fabian Driver.

It is definitely the deepest of the three. The secondary characters are undoubtedly more rounded than in the previous two. I found that the village landscape reminded me of nothing more than Hardy's bleakly symbolic surroundings.

But I miss the sparkle! (Another late Alphabe-Thursday post!)


Jingle said...

awards 4 u, Happy Friday!

Happy Weekend.

Pom Pom said...

Hmmmmm. I keep trying to read Excellent Women but I've been so sleepy at night, I can't even hold up my Kindle!

Elizabethd said...

I dont think I've read any of hers, but will keep a look out.

Angela said...

PomPoms post made me smile - a Victorian Woman would take a Candle to bed - but the modern gal, takes a Kindle!

My library does not HAVE any Pym [or any other 'classic' stuff as far as I can tell- just rows of chick lit] I am going to borrow some from my daughter at half term and re-read the Pyms I enjoyed years ago.

At a Summer Book Club meeting, would you have Pimms with Pyms?

blessings xx

magsmcc said...

Oh definitely, Angela! Pom Pom, the hostess of our book club has a Kinmdle- as does her husband! I was more impressed with them than I had expected to be- much easier on shelf space!

Jackie said...

Barbara Pym sounds neat . Have a great weekend!

Floss said...

OK, so I'm going to have to raid my mum's much loved Barbara Pyms next time I head to Edinburgh - somehow she never got me interested in them, but you have!

mise said...

That's exactly what I thought - I got caught up in Excellent Women for its gentle incisiveness and old-fashioned story-telling, but felt a bit let down by Jane and Prudence - it plodded along a bit and lacked the sidelong edge of EW. But I'll try some more. So far, I have Barbara Pym pegged as Graham Greene for the vicarage community.

magsmcc said...

Mise- I think that your pegging is spot on!

Pondside said...

I think I have all of her books. I've loved her for a long time, and in times of angst repeat
Some tame gazelle
Some gentle dove
Something to love, something to love

Splendid Little Stars said...

ooo! ooo! More books to add to my list! intriguing! I've heard of her, but not read her. Aren't book clubs the bees knees?!

Jenny said...

I haven't read her, but she sounds fascinating.

And I so wish I could join your book club. It sounds wonderful! I love the themed refreshment idea! Clever and fun!

Thanks for a perfect link to Alphabe-Thursday's letter 'P'.

I enjoyed my visit here!