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Barbara Pym

Full Name: Barbara Pym
Gender: Female
Hometown: Oswestry, Shropshire
Born: 1913-06-02
Died: 1980-01-11
Number of Works: 23
After studying English at St Hilda's College, Oxford, she served in the Women's Royal Naval Service during World War II.

The turning point for Pym came with a famous article in the Times Literary Supplement in which two prominent names, Lord David Cecil and Philip Larkin, nominated her as the most underrated writer of the century. Pym and Larkin had kept up a private correspondence over a period of many years. Her comeback novel, Quartet in Autumn, was nominated for the Booker Prize. Another novel, The Sweet Dove Died, previously rejected by many publishers, was subsequently published to critical acclaim, and several of her previously unpublished novels were published after her death.

Pym worked at the International African Institute in London for some years, and played a large part in the editing of its scholarly journal, Africa, hence the frequency with which anthropologists crop up in her novels. She never married, despite several close relationships with men, notably Henry Harvey, a fellow Oxford student, and the future politician, Julian Amery. After her retirement, she moved into Barn Cottage at Finstock in Oxfordshire with her younger sister, Hilary, who continued to live there until her death in February 2005. A blue plaque was placed on the cottage in 2006. The sisters played an active role in the social life of the village.

Several strong themes link the works in the Pym "canon", which are more notable for their style and characterisation than for their plots. A superficial reading gives the impression that they are sketches of village or suburban life, with excessive significance being attached to social activities connected with the Anglican church (in particular its Anglo-Catholic incarnation). However, the dialogue is often deeply ironic, and a tragic undercurrent runs through some of the later novels, especially Quartet in Autumn and The Sweet Dove Died.

ISBN: 014310487X, 9780143104872
Keywords: women, excellent
Pages: 231
Published: 1952
  • Rating: 80%

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.
ISBN: 1559212268, 9781559212267
Keywords: prudence, jane
Pages: 256
Published: 1953
  • Rating: 80%
ISBN: 1559212640, 9781559212649
Keywords: gazelle, tame
Pages: 252
Published: 1976
  • Rating: 80%
ISBN: 0330326481, 9780330326483
Keywords: autumn, quartet
Pages: 186
Published: 1977
  • Rating: 80%

Quartet in Autumn is one of the books Pym wrote during the 15 years when no one would publish her, and perhaps the same kind of balance between hopelessness and inner strength helped shape this novel's story about four friends in an office nearing the age of retirement. They are people who have lived unspectacularly, but who have conjured a sense of themselves from the quartet's unity. Things start to change when two of them retire. Pym maps this ordinary strangeness of life with her particular genius for brilliant psychological insight and quiet humor that never strains for effect.
ISBN: 155921306X, 9781559213066
Keywords: love, return, fond
Pages: 256
Published: 1961
  • Rating: 80%
ISBN: 155921354X, 9781559213547
Keywords: attachment, unsuitable
Pages: 256
Published: 1982
  • Rating: 80%

The wonderful thing about Barbara Pym is her ability to take believable characters and have them do such queer things in such a delightful way. Her legacy of seeing slightly askew gave John Updike, Anita Brookner and a whole raft of writers the courage to carry on. 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 S
ISBN: 1559212438, 9781559212434
Keywords: hodnet, crampton
Pages: 216
Published: 1985
  • Rating: 80%
ISBN: 1559213884, 9781559213882
Keywords: angels
Pages: 302
Published: 1955
  • Rating: 80%
ISBN: 033032649X, 9780330326490
Keywords: died, dove, sweet
Pages: 176
Published: 1978
  • Rating: 80%

Over Barbara Pym's 30-year writing career her primary subject was the intricate rituals of English life, which she observed with a sharp but understanding eye. Her novels now enjoy a devoted following and belated recognition as classics of the British comic novel. In The Sweet Dove Died, first published in 1978, she sardonically uncovers the sometimes troubling truths behind relationships. A chance encounter over a Victorian flower book brings together Humphrey, an antique dealer, James, his nephew, and Leonora. Although she is considerably older, Leonora develops a fondness for James. She's d
ISBN: 1559212284, 9781559212281
Keywords: leaves
Pages: 250
Published: 1980
  • Rating: 80%