Saturday, 24 January 2015

Book Review #1: Excellent Women (Barbara Pym)

This has been on my list of books to read for a while. I had never read anything by Barbara Pym but had seen good reviews and thought this would be a good place to start. She writes with wry observation about small things happening in small lives - I think I remember seeing her compared to Jane Austen for this reason. The book is written from the perspective of an "excellent woman" in post-war London - single, daughter of a vicar, works for a charity helping distressed gentlewomen, pillar of the local church and friend of the vicar and his sister. She is sharper and sparkier than this implies - perhaps all excellent women are? As a result she becomes caught up in the lives of those around her as confidante and support: the vicar, infatuated with a new parishioner; a female anthropologist in love with a fellow anthropologist and neglecting her army officer husband; the vicar's rather drippy sister; the parishioners who imagine her to be distraught that she is not the object of the vicar's affections; an old school friend and his bird loving brother. All the characters are well drawn and Pym is one of those author's who can convey a lot in a few words. I found it an enjoyable and easy read.

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