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An Academic Question by Barbara Pym
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Mar 05, 12

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in March, 2012

AN ACADEMIC QUESTION. (1986). Barbara Pym. ****.
Mostly written during 1970 during her exclusion from the publishing world, Ms. Pym put this aside to work on “Quartet in Autumn.” The novel itself was put together after Ms. Pym’s death by her friend and scholar, Hazel Holt, using two different drafts and a handwritten version. The result is still a wonderful novel, although it does not consist of Pym’s usual comedy of manners themes. In this story, we meet Caroline (Caro) and Alan Grimstone, a couple living in a small London suburb on the grounds of a small university where Alan is a Professor of African studies. Through the efforts of Caro, Alan is able to get a look at a manuscript document of a former professor which directly applies to the paper he is currently writing. The document provides Dr. Grimstone with an edge over his fellow scholars by giving him access to data that none of them has seen. The resultant interplay among all of the university types, and Caro’s subsequent relationship with her husband after this foray into the grey area of the academic “publish or perish” philosophy is right on target and done with Pym’s skill and acute observations. Although slightly out of her usual stuff, this is still a magnificent novel. Recommended.
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