Barbara Pym

This Covid time would have been so much worse for me without books. I’m writing my own book too but right now we are in the middle of a move and I feel too scattered to settle into a daily routine. You never know when someone will want to view your house and thus it must always be in showroom condition and we must be out of the house. I did manage a chapter a few days ago. And I have an idea entirely real in my mind I want to put on paper. I scratched out a few notes until I can give it my full attention.

I’ve not been happy with most of the books from my re-read collection. Too contemporary. I go back to the tattered Regency romance print editions or buy new Kindle copies. I’m on my fourth Pym and enjoying it very much. Hers were contemporary for her time. She was born in 1930s and so wrote beginning in the 50s. Her career was ruthlessly interrupted in the late 60s-70s when her publisher dropped her and she couldn’t get a new one. Her books were just too old-fashioned and sweet. They didn’t fit. They seemed throwbacks to gentler times. But when she re-emerged in the 80s, even all her backlist reprinted by a fancy literary press, I discovered her and fell in love.

She only had ten years or so left to write her sly erudite stories of women’s lives in mid-twentieth century. There’s romance, but usually of the thwarted sort. Right now I’m reading The Sweet Dove Died. A young man with fluid sexuality, his uncle who runs an antique shop, and the three women the nephew falls to some degree in love with: a young woman..maybe a beatnik? An older woman…but still beautiful in her way, and a heartbreaker of a romeo who tosses the young man aside for a new version.

These books don’t seem like much as far as plots go: they are character-driven and the main pov is the older woman. The wealthy antiques dealer uncle loves her and would marry her but she holds him off, allowing him to feed her fancy meals at the best restaurants or see an opera together. I do so love the characters even though they are not typical “good” heroines. Pym wrote before the time of strict rules for writing women characters. They don’t have to be all good; and they are not. They feel more like real people for all that. The other thing that captivates me, besides the lovely London setting, is Pym’s prose. She’s an easy wordsmith and handles her sentences with a lovely dexterity and cadence. She’s a great comfort to me in these days when I just can’t seem to read murder mysteries.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve never read Pym. Will check her out. Just finished Every Vow You Break (meh.) And One by One. (better.)Sounds like your life is hectic. Mine, too. Sorry but I have to cancel our lunch Friday. My sister is getting out of the nursing home tomorrow & I will be staying with her Fri thru Sunday in Dexter the next 3 weekends as her partner will be gone to dog competitions. After 2 months in the nursing home she will be adjusting back to her house and doesn’t want to be alone. If you have any time in the next weeks to reschedule, we could try, but your life sounds anything but calm. BarbSent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

    Liked by 1 person

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