**spoiler alert** This is a re-read. I noticed that after my initial read back in 1991 when I first discovered Pym (and subsequently grabbed every one**spoiler alert** This is a re-read. I noticed that after my initial read back in 1991 when I first discovered Pym (and subsequently grabbed every one of her novels off the shelves of my public library) I didn't make any notes about this book in my beautiful little "Book Lover's Journal." Just the book and the date read. Perhaps that is because it is rather depressing, quite a switch from the upbeat ending of the first Pym novel I read, "No Fond Return of Love."
Jane is a misfitted clergyman's wife and Prudence is her younger friend who always manages to get herself into hopeless and fruitless love affairs. The ending is satisfactory enough and yet it seems more hopeless than that found in most other Pym novels. The book's Lothario gets his in the end by becoming engaged to someone who will never allow him to cheat and yet by placing him into this scenerio, Pym casts the novel's only clear romantic denouement in a very depressing light: "It was as if a net had closed round him."
But if ennui hangs heavier in J&P, the humor is also more frequent. Pym is in hilarious form here -- approximately one laugh per 2-3 pages -- and the following are two self-consciously writerly quotes that made me laugh aloud:
"Miss Bird again embarrassed Jane by pushing herself forward, knocking against a novelist of greater distinction than herself and seizing a plate of sandwiches and making off with it to a comparatively uncrowded corner."
"Once outside the magic circle the writers became their lonely selves, pondering on poems, observing their fellow men ruthlessly, putting people they knew into novels; no wonder they were without friends."
Pym also has a great time with the line, "men only want one thing":
"'In many ways, of course, Mr. Driver is a very charming man. They say, though, that men only want ONE THING -- that's the truth of the matter.' Miss Doggett again looked puzzled; it was as if she had heard that men only wanted one thing, but had forgotten for the moment what it was."
"'Flora is shaping very well as a cook,' said Nicholas. 'I don't know where she gets her talent -- certainly not from either of us. She will make a good wife for somebody one of these days.'
'But men don't want only that,' said Jane, 'though perhaps the better ones think they do. I was talking to Miss Doggett in the train the other day . . . ' Her sentence trailed off vaguely, for perhaps she too had difficulty in remembering what it was that men wanted."
Depressing but hilarious. Three and one-half stars to "Jane and Prudence."
This is not a typical Pym novel -- I didn't find myself laughing out loud as I usually do when reading Pym. But it does have the quirky, well-drawn chThis is not a typical Pym novel -- I didn't find myself laughing out loud as I usually do when reading Pym. But it does have the quirky, well-drawn characters and it was enjoyable....more