Saturday, 8 June 2013

Barbara Pym Books

Better late than never, as here we are at the end of Barbara Pym Reading Week.  I first read Barbara Pym several years ago, have now read six or seven of them, and have always have rather mixed feelings over her stories.  I like some of them, but others not as well;  but they are still all well written.  I like the village settings and the more eccentric characters that sometimes pop up here and there, but along with the gentle humour, there is often an underlying melancholy tone throughout the stories, which can leave one with a slight sadness after reading them.  I remember two books that left me with a sadness being 'The Sweet Dove Died' and 'Less Than Angels.'  Another element is the subtle mocking of the characters, as if showing them to be rather silly or even pathetic, which can be mildly unnerving.  So one can begin reading the stories, feeling them to be light, fun, not-too-serious fiction, but soon knowing that there is much more depth and cunning behind the characters and storyline.

The week before last I read 'A Few Green Leaves' which I enjoyed, and this week 'A Glass Of Blessings.'  Both titles were interesting, but the last having a rather exasperating main character, Wilmet, who despite being self-assured, superior and highly observant and critical about others, was rather dim, passive, aimless and utterly self-centred, being blind about what was happening to those closest to her. I felt that she often wanted to be good and useful, indeed she did care about others to a small extent sometimes,  but generally expected to be led by the hand to do anything. This story did have quite a lot of funny lines in it, which I wish I had jotted down before I returned it to the library!

I possess four titles in my library (Crampton Hodnet, Some Tame Gazelle, Jane and Prudence, Less Than Angels);  1980s E. P. Dutton editions with attractively patterned covers and I must say that I was appalled at the covers of the new editions that have been recently republished.  They are cute, but tend to make the books look like just one more of the gang of dreaded "chick-lit" which I can't abide.  I can say the same for the new covers for Mary Stewart's books too.  It's worth seeking out the older printings for better cover designs.



  1. Nice post, and I *so* agree about those awful modern Virago covers!

  2. I'm glad you agree! I don't know what those people were thinking! I'm always pleasantly surprised when older books are republished and the cover are actually good.

  3. My feelings are similarly mixed. I do love Barbara Pym but I need to space out her books and pick the right moment to read. I'm not fond of the new covers, but they do seem popular in my library - I often see them on the returns trollies.

    1. Hello Fleur, yes I too feel I have to space out her books and be in the mood for them. I've recently read two and that's enough for quite some time.