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Jane and Prudence

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  3,723 ratings  ·  480 reviews
If Jane Cleveland and Prudence Bates seem an unlikely pair to be walking together at an Oxford reunion, neither of them are aware of it. They couldn't be more different: Jane is a rather incompetent vicar's wife, who always looks as if she is about to feed the chickens, while Prudence, a pristine hothouse flower, has the most unsuitable affairs. With the move to a rural pa ...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Moyer Bell and its subsidiaries (first published 1953)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  3,723 ratings  ·  480 reviews

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Fiona MacDonald
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Another hilarious and satirical look at Barbara Pym’s world. It reminds me so much of Wodehouse, dated and quaint yet somehow a world I wish we could all still inhabit. Where a relationship was broken by a letter, where a meal out with a man caused serious gossip for villagers, where a woman’s unmarried status was a massive problem. Jane and Prudence, although different ages, consider themselves close friends after being at Oxford University, but affairs, mix ups, arguments, pots of tea and gene ...more
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read by Pym and on that basis alone, I will say she is in the tradition of Jane Austen (the main character's Emma Woodhouse comment acknowledges this), Trollope (whom the character Jane is a reader of) and even Gaskell's Cranford. While reading, I also couldn't help but compare Pym to her contemporary, Muriel Spark. But what a contrast that is -- while Spark mercilessly spears us with her stiletto, Pym gently skewers us.

I loved the character of Jane, what she says and
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a delight!

My second Barbara Pym, and I have decided to read one of her books at least once a year. She is a breath of fresh air.

This story could be seen as just a light romp with some very amusing company. It was that.

We have Jane, a bluestocking turned vicar’s wife.
“I should have liked the kind of life where one ate food flavoured with garlic, but it was not to be.”
I kept picturing her as Julia Child--odd, but strangely brilliant and wickedly funny.

And there’s the beautiful and dramatic
lark benobi
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, she-2019, uk
The bio of Pym on the back of my copy of Jane and Prudence accuses her of writing primarily about "Anglican spinsters." The phrase itself seems like it's from another age, and so does Pym's novel about middle class British women making their way through the immediate postwar years.

Pym's women are intelligent and educated, and ambitious in their own way, but they never quite break free of their nineteen-fifties views of what women are meant to occupy themselves with--mainly, the occupation of fi
May 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Austen
Shelves: historical
Pym writes loneliness, the urban/modern condition, and humanity’s oft mistaken attempts at communication and companionship very well. Given that her characters are generally overlooked middle-aged people clinging quietly but desperately to a pretense of gentility, one might assume her stories are unhappy. Of course parts of them are, but I get the feeling that her characters are happier by the end of her novels than at the start. They definitely progress, toward intimacy with another person(s) o ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Once I accepted that Pym world is the Waspy-ist of Wasplands circa the 1950's, where the only conceivable 'others' are Catholics, I settled in and had a fabulous time. I didn't read the publisher's description, so somehow I had it in my head that Jane and Prudence were both Elizabeth Bennett types. Not! Take Jane Austen and stir in a touch of Lucille Ball, and you get the gentle, slightly wacky satire of this book. Especially Jane, who is one of Pym's 'excellent women' gone askew. Pym's humor is ...more
Primrose Jess
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
Thank goodness for Barbara Pym. She is another comfort read. That world of High Church vs. Low Church... and somewhere in between, church decorating, anthropology, delicious food descriptions, and the cynical observations of the relationships between men and women. Always a pleasure to dive into a Pym novel.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middlebrowish
Another goodie by Ms. Pym! I do like this type of book, its not action packed but rather focuses on the characters. It's like a slice of life about 10 years post WWII in England. It's full of people you know and situations you've encountered, from the coworkers, friends, lovers and spouses. We've all known them, this book shows their reality, the good, the bad, quirks, warts and all.

Pym is funny, ironic, satirical, bitingly honest, and perceptive. She was a fan of Jane Austen and I see some par
[3.5] A very good example of the kind of thing it is - genteel, slightly humourous story of 1950s ladies - but it's not quite my kind of thing. I'd suspected this is what Barbara Pym - and also the entire output of blog-favourite boutique publisher Persephone Books - would be like, whilst faintly hoping she might turn out as satirical as Stella Gibbons. So although Pym has been widely recommended, I'd never sought out her books... but holiday cottages always seem to have at least one Virago Mode ...more
Nov 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Chrissie by: Ruth
This is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t! This is the thought that struck me over and over again throughout the entire book. The book never annoyed me, but it leaves me totally unmoved and indifferent. I am giving it one star because as far as I am concerned it is not worth the time spent reading it.

This novel is about the eponymous Jane and Prudence. Jane is a vicar’s wife. She and her husband have just moved from London out to a small provincial town, where at the start they know no one. Sh
Sigh... on one hand I didn't want this to end and on the other hand, I couldn't put it down! I am so glad to have met Barbara Pym! I shall be reading more of her books! Gentle, delightful, witty, lovely! Written in the 1950's about life in a British village in the 1950's-- about a friendship between two women-- one a spinster and one married to a clergyman. I may just have to read this book again very soon, for I loved it so! Thank you so much for giving it to me for Christmas, Linda! ...more
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane and Prudence lead very different lives.

Jane is married to a kindly vicar and her life is concerned with their children and parish. She is outspoken and often causes problems with her tactless, but good-hearted, interference.

Prudence is single, elegant and has a habit of preferring unsatisfactory affairs. She has a research job which she finds dull and her boredom is relieved by crushes on unsuitable men. Her office colleagues add amusement to the story as they compete and gossip.

Jane and P
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Lucy Barnhouse
Shelves: fiction
After my recent stack of depressing non-fiction and novels about genocide, I decided it was time to read something not relentlessly downbeat. Several people recommended Barbara Pym’s novels as cheering, so I scoured the library for them and read ‘Jane and Prudence’ on the train. It was indeed charming and hilarious. Pym has an excellent ear for social awkwardness - inviting strangers to tea, the dynamics of office tea-making, etc. The titular main characters are appealingly real and reminded me ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Review included in my fall/winter roundup on my blog: ...more
Lady Mayfair
What an incredibly delightful little novel! What a sharp, perfectly austenesque sense of humor Mrs. Pym has and how easy she deploys it to satirise a society unshackled from the distant, Victorian interpersonal approach but still burdened by concepts of social expectation, shocking gender discrimination in food rationing in restaurants and frivolous behaviour.

Jane and Prudence's friendship is irresistible historical fiction; even though they are flawed, critical, capricious and of a judgemental
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
Revisit. This was another delightful read from Barbara Pym who I “discovered” thanks to my book group. This one is the story of Jane Cleveland, a country vicar’s wife who is kind hearted, slightly eccentric, and far from the “ideal” vicar’s wife―she is not a particularly good housekeeper, can’t cook (beyond opening a tin), seems to say the wrong things and makes quite a few faux pas, but is loved by and loves her family (husband and daughter), leading a rather happy life. Up at Oxford she was tu ...more
Another lovely Barbara Pym. Witty and touching,lovely characters, A look into a bygone era of the English village when life revolved around the vicarage, politeness, tea and cucumber sandwiches and the occasional raised eyebrow, even Fabian the womaniser does it in an awfully polite way !
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-authors

More like 4.5 stars.

Dear Simran,

This book was very good and I enjoyed it very much. I think you should read it.

Kindest Regards,

Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
While I didn't love this as much as Pym's first two novels, it was still a delight. Here again Pym softly skewers mid-20th-century British notions of gender, class, religion, sex, and whatnot. Jane—perfectly summed up in the blurb as "an incompetent vicar's wife, who always looks like she's about to feed the chickens" was richly drawn; her younger, sexually-liberated friend Prudence did not come as alive on the page, I didn't think. ...more
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20s-to-60s
This is the story of Jane - a scatty clergyman's wife who has just moved to a country parish, and her former student Prudence - beautiful, single and hopping from one hopeless love affair to the next. When Prudence visits her friend at her new home, Jane is determined to finally find a suitable husband for her. But match-making is not as easy as it seems...

I have heard Barbara Pym being compared to both Jane Austen (whose books I love) and Muriel Spark (whose books I don't), so I was curious wha
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
“She’s really no good at parish work – she’s wasted in that kind of life. She has great gifts, you know. She could have written books”

“Written books? Oh, good heavens!”

“Well, what’s wrong with that?” asked Prudence rather sharply.

“I always think women who write books sound rather formidable.”

“You’d prefer them to be stupid and feminine” To think men are wonderful?”

“Well, every man likes to be thought wonderful. A woman need not necessary be stupid to admire a man.”

I only caught one reference to
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
I've been reading Barbara Pym's books in order, so this is our third. :) I wasn't quite as smitten with it as with Some Tame Gazelle and Excellent Women--it seemed somehow to lack some vim . . . not that "vim" is an idea you'd associate with any of her books, but still.

Jane and Prudence seemed somewhat of a more bitter book than the first two, and there was definitely a stronger, more unhappy current of feminism running through it. The first two books seemed to say, "Oh, those dear boys, what wo
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Austen fans and feminists
Shelves: fiction
British author Barbara Pym is a treasure. Initially, her books seem like dry, straight-forward accounts of spinsters and ministers' wives. Very civilized and detailed, the plots weave in and out of the different characters' thoughts as they unfold.
Set close to the WWII period, this book was seemingly paced more slowly within a more simple world. The heroines and friends, Jane and Prudence are both warped as they struggle to adapt to an environment that just doesn't fit....
Sly, subtle writing.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a lovely book about the simple English village life. It’s a perfect read when you don’t want a book with a complicated plot or too many negative things happening. 🍃
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"One of Barbara Pym's first novels, Jane and Prudence is the gently mocking tale of a friendship between two women -- one the less-than-perfect clergyman's wife, the other younger and unmarried. Jane, the older, is one of Pym's classic 'excellent women,' a former Oxford tutor given to quoting John Donne, absent-mindedly inappropriate in her choice of clothes as well as her chance remarks, and possessed of a wry humour. Jane's friend Prudence, too elegant to be considered a spinster and too well- ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: anglophilia, classic
I have now read three of Barbara Pym's novels, and while I have enjoyed them, they are all three about British churches in the middle of the 20th Century. I am an Episopalian and an anglophile, so the subtle asides and comments Pym is making about this section of British society are not hard for me to catch.
To an average American these books might appear rather dull. They were written about a particular time and place. You have to be in on the joke, and, come to think of it, I don't know why I
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Since reviewing this book back in 2010, I purchased a used set of Pym novels and have been rereading my favorites chronologically. I enjoyed J&P much more this time around, perhaps because, knowing the basic plot, I could focus more on the writing: the structure, the beautifully drawn characters, and the brilliantly understated humor. Pym is hilarious and the quotes from my previous review don’t even come close to illustrating her comedic gift.

Five stars this time around.

Older review: I notic
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Jane and Prudence have been friends since they were at Oxford together, when Prudence was a student there and Jane was her tutor. Jane's husband is a curate, and they have recently transferred to a village parish, where Jane expects life will be more bucolic, in a pastoral poem sort of way--certainly more so than the suburban parish they have left behind. But people are people wherever you go, and Jane, moreover, isn't particularly good at being a curate's wife; she has no talent (or patience) f ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2017-read
Barbara Pym is an English author, who, in the 1950's, wrote a series of social comedies. Jane and Prudence is not her best known, but if some of her other books are better than this one, I have GOT to read them.

The plot is somewhat formulaic: older minister's wife is playing matchmaker for her younger friend. Jane met Prudence when she tutored her at Oxford. But Jane does not fit my idea of an Oxford graduate. She is sweet, but somewhat scatter brained. On page 145, a young man comes to her door
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After studying English at St Hilda's College, Oxford, Barbara Pym served in the Women's Royal Naval Service during World War II. From 1950 to 1961, she published six novels, but her 7th was declined by the publisher due to a change in the reading public's tastes.

The turning point for Pym came with a famous article in the 1975 Times Literary Supplement in which two prominent names, Lord David Cecil

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