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A Few Green Leaves

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  763 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
In A FEW GREEN LEAVES the author combines the rural settings of her earliest novels with many of the themes- and even some of the characters- of her later ones. Switching points of view among many characters, she builds with accumulating effect the picture of life in a town forgotten by time yet affected dramatically by it. Historical time- represented by Druid ruins, the ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Moyer Bell (first published January 1st 1980)
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I have heard of Barbara Pym quite often, especially since joining Goodreads, but this has been my first opportunity to read one of her novels. I am very glad my journey has begun (yes, I definitely will be reading more of Miss Pym's work).

The setting is an English village in the 1970s, appearing sadly out of date, perhaps because most of the primary characters have spent most of their adult lives living in the past. This novel so beautifully captures the social life (or is it a life?) of such a
Diane Barnes
Sep 16, 2016 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it
If you need a break from modern life and would like to vacation for a few days in an English village full of rectors, spinsters, well meaning busybodies and odd characters, then Barbara Pym can take you there. There is no one like her for humorous barbs and gentle wit. When you finish this book you feel rested and ready to re-enter the fray of modern life.
Mar 24, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love Barbara Pym.
This was a lovely gentle read told with wit and charm.
She certainly has an eye for character.
You can just imagine the coffee mornings, sherry parties, hunger lunches, flower arranging and jumble sales!
Village life where everyone had a part.
I did feel for Tom though .
A vicar needs a wife to help him with his duties!
A lot is still relevant today, nothing changes!
Kim Kaso
Aug 03, 2016 Kim Kaso rated it really liked it
Shelves: constant-reader
This is my second time reading this book, & it is a solid 4.5 stars. Why not a full 5, I ask myself, and my answer is that I felt at one remove from the characters. I could not engage fully with Emma, or anyone else. It is as if Emma's observational nature as an anthropologist influenced Miss Pym's narrative style & made it a bit chillier than usual.

I was glad to be in her world again, but I felt as if glass was separating me from the book. My mind enjoyed the story, the focus on the qu
Anastasia Hobbet
Aug 22, 2011 Anastasia Hobbet rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
Pym is a favorite drug. Every few years I go on a bender and re-read a bunch of her books. This one I picked up after reading One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes. It was not One Fine Book, but reminded me of Pym in the setting and the cast--so I had to get the taste of it out of my brain with the real Pym. Success. Never was there a lighter, defter touch than Pym's. She was a master of dark, gentle, comic irony. Her writing looks simple--but it isn't. Why aren't there movies of her books?
Sep 07, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in a small English village this later Pym novel, published in the year of her death - has something of the feel of one of her much earlier novels, although it lacks a little of the sharpness of those earlier perfections.
Emma Horwick is an anthropologist in her mid-thirties, she moves to the village to write up her notes, and is immediately drawn into observing her neighbours. These of course are wonderful Pymish creations, clergymen, doctors, spinsters, academics and housewives. Tom is a sl
Jun 08, 2014 Bibliophile rated it really liked it
Pym's last novel before her death (there have been some posthumously published novels since) contains the usual mix of gentle satire, delightful humor and clear-eyed observations about the human condition. This one comes across a tad more modern, written and taking place in the late 70's, but you still have your gossiping parishioners, jumble sales and social anxieties. It's set in a sleepy little village where anthropologist Emma settles to get some work done, but is distracted by the eccentric ...more
Oct 08, 2011 Karen rated it liked it
Barbara Pym is one of my favorite authors for the quiet way she writes and her wry wit. A Few Green Leaves contains all Pym's main themes. She deals with personal crises and life changes in a dignified, undramatic manner, the way many people live their lives. Decisions are made,lives area ltered but it continues without emotional scenes. A Few Green Leaves is not Pym's best book. It does move more slowly than her other works, the wit is less apparent and the characters are less well drawn. I gav ...more
Hema Yoganarasimhan
Nov 28, 2013 Hema Yoganarasimhan rated it it was amazing
Reread this after a long time. One of the last books by Pym -- a gentler, softer, and almost sadder take on English village life in the 70s. The protagonist, Emma, is taking a break from her city life in a small English cottage and immerses herself into the cultural landscape -- as a detached participant, or maybe more appropriately, as an anthropologist observer. The everyday themes of -- hunger lunches, bring-and-buy sales, village-gossips, change of seasons, teas, the village pub-scene, the l ...more
Aug 02, 2010 Mrsgaskell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british, own, 10-star
This is Barbara Pym at her best. Emma Howick, an anthropologist in her thirties, is spending some time at her mother’s cottage in a small English village. Although she is supposed to be writing up her notes, she is sidetracked by village and church activities. It’s the 1970s but woman’s emancipation has been slow to arrive. The village’s inhabitants include the requisite rector and his spinster sister as well as a few doctors and a host of “excellent women”. An old flame of Emma’s, separated fro ...more
May 26, 2013 Pooch rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! I think of Louise Penny and wonder if she's influenced by Barbara Pym's writing since there is a strong similarity in style and wry wit.

A favorite description: He was "...a sometime chaplain on the Riviera." It makes me smile.

Enchanting story of a quiet English village and "slow living", gentle, ordinary, and engaging. An anthropologist comes to stay in her mother's cottage and collects observations and experience with the people in all their individuality and complexities. This book
Jun 14, 2013 Theresa rated it liked it
Shelves: english-lit

I am wondering if this book is a little autobiographical. It is a story of life in a quiet English village with the accompanying characters; the vicar, the doctor, the women with their coffee hours and decorating the church with flowers, the aging bachelor with his idiosyncrasies and job as a food (gourmet, nothing less!) critic.

It was enjoyable, a quick read, especially if you are looking for a subdued story interjected now and then with tart remarks about the characters. The plot is a simple o
Mar 22, 2007 lauren rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with a fine sense of humor
Barbara Pym is my favorite writer ever ever ever and this is a fine example of why she has claimed the #1 spot in my heart. This book, her last, centers around an out of date English village populated by all the typical Pym characters: the dopey vicar who's more comfortable talking about history than personal matters, the dowdy 30-ish "excellent woman" anthropologist, the eccentric old lady who buries her dead hedgehog in a wool sweater. Not much happens and yet there is nary a slow moment: ever ...more
Doreen Legault
Jul 24, 2013 Doreen Legault rated it really liked it
If you haven't discovered the late Barbara Pym, never fear as her books are still available. She has been described by some as a modern day Jane Austen which may help you. I find her books to be similar to a visit with an old friend as you wander about town catching up on all the doings and goings on. I am on my third novel and cant wait to get to the next one. Cozy, entertaining, comfy reading with a healthy sprinkling of wit. Ms Pym excells at showcasing the follies and foibles of her contempo ...more
May 30, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Barbara Pym is such a wonderful writer - her stories are quiet and gentle. Her world is completely believable, mundane and yet somehow suffused with a comic undercurrent that keeps the reader completely engaged. While I didn't enjoy this book as much as EXCELLENT WOMEN, it played with the same themes. Pym doesn't hit you over the head with a message, she lets the characters meander. Pym's writing is undramatic and softly ironic. I personally would not want to read her books in a row but will kee ...more
Carolyn Hill
Aug 28, 2016 Carolyn Hill rated it liked it
I think I may have read a Barbara Pym novel ages ago, but I can't remember which one. Certainly, I have heard her name over and over for those who love an English village story told with wit and charm. I enjoyed this book, but it left me wanting. We see a typical collection of village characters: among others - the elder and the younger doctor and their wives; the two elderly ladies who live together and reminisce about the past; the widowed rector, his older sister who yearns for sunny Greece, ...more
Nov 28, 2008 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Just read this again. Pym is always comforting and homey -- an easy read for just after Thanksgiving. Good for lolling on the couch with lots of tea and a warm cat. Her stories are transportive (if that's a word) -- taking you into the drawing rooms and lounges of mid-20th century suburban England where it was important to have the right cake for tea and plenty of sherry. Always fun and the detail is rich enough to bring each character and scene into sharp focus.
Jan 16, 2010 Jessie rated it really liked it
This one is less plot-driven than some of her other novels, which I like, but it does not have the same sense of comic timing. As her last novel, written in 1980, and she refers to topics such as sex and homosexuality outright, which is quite a contrast to her earlier works, but maybe not an important one. I liked this book because it feels very much like real life, with constant ambivalence, detachment, and absurdity (but is still kind of romantic).
Aug 10, 2016 Fanficfan44 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the later Pym novels. Published in the year of her death and set in the 70s. It revolves around a small village, an anthropologist who is writing and studying the inhabitants, the rector and his unmarried sister and various other villagers. The setting is appealing, as is the story. A slice of life in this village that seems to have been left behind with its quaint sherry parties, hunger luncheons, afternoons of walking and blackberry gathering, and flower arranging debates.

Nov 29, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 16, 2012 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nothing much really happens in the lives of this group of uninteresting, (largely) unlikeable people. Now you know. Zzzzzzzzzzzz
Feb 26, 2015 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, read-in-2015
"In her wry and incisive last novel, Barbara Pym builds with accumulating effect the picture of life in a village forgotten by time yet affected dramatically by it. History -- represented by Druid ruins and an eighteenth-century manor (and the last aristocrats who occupied it in the 1920s) -- is juxtaposed against the banalities of life in the 1970s. We encounter a classic cast of Pym characters -- the local cat-lady, widows, rectors, retirees -- as well as a new generation composed of a young d ...more
Mar 07, 2014 William rated it really liked it
This was my first Barbara Pym, and ironically her last. I believe she died shortly after it was written. Pym was recommended to my wife by friends in England, who said that her work was a cozy kind of literature. I was surprised to find it a lot more compelling than that. "A Few Green Leaves" is an interesting and sometimes acerbic exploration of life in a small English village.

It's a different kind of literature in that while nothing much happens, it is also not philosophical or introspective.
Sep 03, 2013 ideallaedi rated it it was ok
I wasn't very impressed. The book is set in a (rather sleepy) village and follows the lives of the people there, or rather, catalogues a few events which take place there. Now I don't mind a plot-less book provided that the characters inhabiting it are charming or at least interesting. However that isn't the case here. We have a slightly absent minded rector who is an amateur historian, his slightly annoying elder sister who wants to settle down in Greece, two doctors and their families, a cleri ...more
Mar 16, 2013 Bridget rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
It has only been in the past few years that I heard of/learned of Barbara Pym. Since then, I've read a few of her books, enjoying the experience each time. "A Few Green Leaves" was no exception.

Emma has moved to a small village for the summer, living in her mother's empty cottage there. She is an anthropologist, and feels that a summer spent observing the people in a small village will provide vast material for her studies.

The people in the village, for the most part, have lived there for a lon
Jul 05, 2013 Ann rated it really liked it
Shelves: anglophilia
A Few Green Leaves

This book from 1980 was Barbara Pym’s last. It is not as popular as “Excellent Women” or “Jane and Prudence”, which date from the 1950s, but it is very enjoyable nevertheless. For Barbara Pym aficionados it is instructive to see how she dealt with the 1970s.

Emma Horwick, a not particularly attractive 35-ish sociologist, moves to the village to write up her latest notes. On a whim she writes to a former lover, Graham Pettifer, when she sees him on television. Graham appears to
Feb 12, 2012 Rita rated it liked it
Shelves: british-novel
Publ. posthum. 1980.
I have read 3 Pyms in a row and find that is too much of a good thing. Better to return them to the library and read one at a time next year. Possibly this book is less engaging than her others, as some readers claim, but maybe I have just read too many just now.

"Pathetic" is a good word for how the characters' lives in Pym books strike me. Yet they reflect [I believe] our real lives quite faithfully. Pym's high level of self-reflection is extraordinary.

I like several of the
Aug 22, 2011 Joje rated it really liked it
Rereading this as I await the 3rd Calzi. Not unhappy to meet the spirit again, a quiet way to doze off, and it is interesting enough not to fall asleep right away.

Slow it has been for a short novel, certainly, but it fits the preoccupations of our lives as much as theirs, even to the level of whether those required to be buried in wool really were, and how many today--besides Miss Lickerish's hedgehodge--use it or not. Oddly I must admit it consumes more of our day, this level, than does whethe
Sep 20, 2008 Nancy rated it it was ok
Barbara Pym is among my favorite writers and it appears that many consider this later work one of her finest. That is not the case with me. It could simply be that this book, completed in 1980, is just more "modern" than her other novels and, therefore, less "novel" to me. The constant in her books is English village life and the mundane challenges of day-to-day living, but in A Few Green Leaves there is a wider range of central characters and yet not one that really engaged me.

This is at least
Aug 28, 2016 Alarie rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I’ve been rereading Barbara Pym, a favorite novelist of mine from the 1980s, but my tastes have shifted with age. This was her last novel and apparently considered by critics to be more sophisticated and better written than her first, Crampton Hodnet. However, I prefer the earlier book for its hilarity, nicely contrasted with stuffy Sunday teas in Oxford.

I do appreciate the irony in this book, that anthropologists and clergy, who should be experts on human behavior, can be the biggest misfits,
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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
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