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Jane and Prudence

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,376 ratings  ·  425 reviews
If Jane Cleveland and Prudence Bates seem an unlikely pair to be walking together at an Oxford reunion, neither of them is 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 ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 6th 2013 by Virago (first published 1953)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Fiona MacDonald
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...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
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After less than ten pages I found myself chuckling more than once on each page, the dialogue, both internal and interpersonal, is so droll and delightfully dated, so incisive and mannered, yet at the same time so fresh and honest. Pym has an acute ear for both the commonplace and the minutely particular. Very witty, indeed. And the entertainment never flagged.

Jane is the 41-year-old former Oxford tutor now married happily to an Anglican clergyman; she is a less than ideal clergyman’s wife,
May 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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) ...more
Lark Benobi
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: she-2019, uk, 2019
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
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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!
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review included in my fall/winter roundup on my blog:
Aug 01, 2015 rated it liked it
[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 ...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
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.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read, classics
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
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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. ...more
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 ...more
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
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1953 when Pym was at the height of her powers, here we find two old friends from their Oxford days; Jane - a vicar's wife - and Prudence - single, beautiful, and infatuated with the distracted academic she works for. This is a woman's world, as Jane thinks early in the novel, and men are really there as a backdrop. Here we have the spotless dialogue, the sly humour, the sharply drawn little world that Pym both knew and created so exquisitely. Jane wants to find Prudence a husband, ...more
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book had many of the same characters and the same setting as Crampton Hodnet. The story and characters were just as witty and real, however, I found it didn't have so many of the great little asides and observations as Crampton Hodnet, and the ending left me a bit unsatisfied. I could so relate to one of the main characters, Jane. She is a clegymans wife who was a literary major in college, wrote a book about 17th century poetry, and had no idea how to deal with a household, cooking, ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this five stars because I love everything that Barbara Pym ever wrote. Her plots are always fairly uneventful, in this case involving the daily lives of two former classmates at Oxford -- one married to a country clergyman, and the other one single and living in London. The author pokes fun at both women, and every other secondary character, in such a hilarious fashion that I read the book with a perpetual grin on my face. Pym's dialogue is as dry as a fine white wine, and as ...more
Carla Remy
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage-brit-lit
Barbara Pym is one of the most readable writers ever. Her prose rolls off the page like candy. True, very little actually happens in her books. There is an endless focus on the Church of England, the tension between high and low church. But religion in her world is a social institution more than anything. This is not the first time I've read "Jane and Prudence." It's not one of my favorites of hers, but it's still delectably readable.
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
A lovely book for a re-read, especially after such a long time since the first read. Life lessons, slyly told, abound in this social comedy where the drama is subtle. Pym certainly understood human nature and self-absorbtion. This passage about Fabian struck me particularly: "He had just realised that the distinguished-looking man sitting at that distant table was himself reflected in a mirror at the far end of the room. No wonder one had had to hurt people, he thought..."
This was an easy, enjoyable read in the style of Cranford. The story revoles around Jane, a middle aged clergyman's wife, and her young spinster friend Prudence. Jane tries to be a dutiful wife of the sort in Trollope's Barchester novels but finds real life falls short of fiction. Prudence meanwhile embarks on a series of mostly fanciful romances with highly unsuitable men while a suitable candidate is right under her nose. A cosy story of village life and the goings on of it's inhabitants.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-lit, fiction
I had read Barbara Pym some years ago (not sure which one, it may have been "Excellent Women"?) and although I remember liking it, felt it was very mild. And then I read "Jane and Prudence".

For some reason this book really absorbed my interest (and why is that? sometimes a book just happens to hit the spot just at the right time.) At first, it was a little slow-moving for me but once I began to delve into the lives of the characters I found it to be a fast read and so entertaining!

Jane is a
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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
“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.” 8 likes
“I love Evensong. There's something sad and essentially English about it.” 7 likes
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