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A Very Private Eye

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  179 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
The autobiography of the novelist Barbara Pym presented in the form of a selection from her diaries and letters. Illustrated. Essential reading for Pym fans.
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published June 25th 1984 by Dutton Books (first published 1984)
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Mar 12, 2014 Bibliophile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've suddenly found myself enchanted with Barbara Pym's novels, and couldn't resist reading this collection of her journals, letters and notes, edited by her sister and her executor. Her writing and distinct Pymness in these texts is just as delightful as in her novels. She comes across as kind and funny, with a sharp wit and enough of a temper to keep things interesting; the kind of gal you'd want for your bestie. Along with, say, Emma Thompson.

The diary entries from her time at Oxford are ful
T.D. Whittle
If you are a Pym devotee, as I am, this is a lovely read and will enhance your sense of connection to the characters and events in her novels. I enjoyed this very much, most especially the letters exchanged between the author and Philip Larkin, who was her friend for years and whose work and life fascinate me too.
Mary Ronan Drew
Jan 26, 2013 Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Very Private Eye is a collection of Barbara Pym's letters and journals edited by her sister, Hilary, and her friend and literary executrix, Hazel Holt. As the spinoff from my online Trollope group (called otherlit) has been reading our way through Pym's novels, I've been reading my way through this collection, trying to stay at about the period in her life when the book we are reading was published.

In about 1970 Pym's publishers decided that no one would buy novels like hers and despite the he
Jun 07, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the risk of repeating myself – I’m really rather bad at reading non-fiction. I have to admit that even when reading a non-fiction book I am really enjoying that there are moments I long for fiction. The fault is all mine, my mind wanders and I get, what I can only call the readers equivalent to the fidgets.
So bearing that in mind, I did enjoy this autobiography in diaries and letters, but there were moments when I enjoyed it more than at others. That is no criticism of the work – I must stre
Dec 01, 2007 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read all of Barbara Pym's work several years ago. Very fun, cozy reading. I was so disappointed to have finished it all, but sometimes I go back and read parts -- especially when in winter if I'm not feeling well. They're like comfort food. Maybe it's all those solid women in their sensible shoes and woolen jumpers. Anyway, I read her bio and letters once I'd finished all her fiction. She was a women just like many of those in her books -- blessedly single all her life, held a good job for whi ...more
Jul 10, 2014 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed to learn how much of her life energy was spent on an unrequited love who didn't seem to be worth her while. Over ninety percent of her journal was focused on him. So sad. However, it did give me insight into exactly why her books cast romance in such a dark light. She had been bitterly disappointed in love, and her novels reflect that perspective. It has made it plain, however, how important love was to Barbara Pym, in spite of her rather negative view of it. Indeed, her negat ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Kristine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a fan of Barbara Pym's novel's, I wanted to know more about the author. Barbara Pym kept diaries throughout the 67 years of her life which gave insight into her friendships, her loves, her years at Oxford, her struggles getting published, her jobs, and her retirement years.
I liked it, but I really, really wished for footnotes and more linking editorial material. If I am a very, very good girl, do you suppose Hermione Lee would write an actual biography of Barbara Pym? Once she's done with Penelope Fitzgerald, that is.
Oct 19, 2012 Joanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed every book I've read by Barbara Pym. I liked getting to know her through her letters and diaries. It made me want to re-read her books. She faced her death with calmness and courage, very touching to read about.
Jan 18, 2013 Linden rated it really liked it
Autobiography of perhaps my favorite author.
A fascinating and intimate glimpse of a writer who is (in my opinion) highly underrated for her subtle humor and dark comic moments. It was heartbreaking to read about Pym's long struggle with rejection as a writer after an initial burst of success, particularly in the midst of a cancer struggle. Her wicked humor emerges in her letters and diaries, particularly the dig at John Lennon's long hair as emerging from a female Victorian writer (I cackled at that). I've made it my new goal to introduce ...more
Jan 11, 2016 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me days to finish the last twenty or so pages of this book because I didn't want to have to stop reading it. I so enjoyed learning about Barbara Pym in her own voice. I re-read all her novels before picking up this book (which had been on my book shelf for 30 years) and I enjoyed seeing how she put so much of her own life into her novels. And it's so gratifying to know that she received deserved recognition while she was still alive.
Andrea Dowd
Aug 25, 2016 Andrea Dowd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Pym's diaries and letters was a great way to bookend the reading of all her novels. It was so wonderful to understand where she was coming from, who she was as a young woman, and to see how she dealt with the rejection and celebrations of her work.

This is a must for Pym fans.
Not a boring moment in any of her notes and letters and diary entries. I have never read any of her books but based on her diaries and letters I am tempted. I bought this because during my reading of Philip Larkin's Letters he had a long correspondence with her.
Jan 14, 2011 Janie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The whole was more than the sum of its parts. Slow at first, it became moving to watch her life unfold in 334 pages of entries in her notebooks and letters to a few friends.
Jul 24, 2013 Marti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting progression from besotted university student to struggling middle ages to finally the poignant reversal of fortunes almost too late to be of any benefit.
An interesting life, though I didn't read every word. Want to read more of her books.
Jan 14, 2008 Joseph rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you love the novels of Barbara Pym, then this book will be something of a letdown.
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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 o
More about Barbara Pym...

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