4 thoughts on “Barbara Pym, An Unsuitable Attachment

  1. ‘The charm of this novel is in people-watching and in spotting the oddness of normal human relations’ – it’s so extraordinary that Cape, and other publishers that she later sent the manuscript to, couldn’t see this. This is such a brilliant review of the novel – I love the way you have highlighted the perfect set-pieces and I’m so glad you’ve included Lady Selvedge! I couldn’t resist a reference to her in a short story sequel to the novel that I’ve posted over on ninevoices.wordpress.com under WRITINGS Tread Softly in the Ladies. Even though you might be like me and tend to dislike sequels to novels by other authors, you and other Barbara Pym fans might enjoy a quick read. I was especially intrigued by your last sentence …


  2. I revisit Barbara Pym regularly: the astringency of her characters and the authentic revoltingness of the meals they eat makes her curiously refreshing. Well do I remember the rehabilitation by Larkin and Cecil and the immediate publication of Quartet in Autumn. Nobody captures the minutiae of office life quite as she does, the tiny needles of resentment showering over colleagues who may just be claiming to work longer (or better) than oneself. And the different way in which she uses the ecclesiastical element in this novel compared with earlier ones is very clever. It occurs to me that Joanna Trollope might have written The Rector’s Wife in order to get revenge upon the clergy for the tribulations of Pym’s excellent women perpetually in thrall to their nearest priest. Perhaps I ought to write and ask. You have beautifully and succinctly captured the essence of what is quite a complicated novel – and encouraged a few new readers, I hope.


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