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The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  71 ratings  ·  22 reviews
A brilliant, intimate biography of English writer Barbara Pym.

She was Pym to friends. Miss Pym in her diaries. Sandra in seduction mode. Pymska at her most sophisticated.
English novelist Barbara Pym’s career was defined, in many senses, by rejection. Her first novel Some Tame Gazelle was turned down by every publisher she sent it out in 1935, finally published only fifteen
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 29th 2021 by William Collins
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Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
My thanks to NetGalley and William Collins for a review copy of this book.

I first came across Barbara Pym I think may be ten years ago through an online book group on Shelfari, and I remember the first time I read her (now I really don’t remember which of her books it was I started with), I thought the book too melancholy. But still I tried others and soon began to really enjoy her works, especially the fun she pokes at people, and so many times at the world of academics, and soon enough I began
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing

I love Barbara Pym's novels. I only have 2 left to read, which I've put off so that I don't run out; having read this, I'm now looking forward to finishing them and rereading the lot.

I had previously read her 'A Very Private Eye' her letters and diaries, which were heavily edited by her sister and one of her best friends,, who quite naturally would wish to preserve her reputation so I felt that this biography gave much more of a sense of who she really was. In the early 1930's, she travelle
May 20, 2021 rated it did not like it
I love the novels of Barbara Pym immensely. Barbara Pym could make mundane things endlessly fascinating. The author of this bio could not. It was rather a bit of a snooze.

The ‘Miss Pym’ construction was used far too frequently and was cutesy in a way that diminishes the subject. From the title, to the text, to chapter titles, to photo captions. It was too much.

That Pym had Nazi sympathies is a fact that the author justly writes about. However, the way she writes about Pym’s Nazi boyfriend and he
Laura Spira
Apr 28, 2021 rated it it was ok
I have greatly enjoyed Barbara Pym’s books: I first discovered her early novels in the public library in my teens and was delighted when the more recent books were published. So I was quite keen to learn more about her.

The jokey title and chapter headings should have warned me that this was not a style of biography i would appreciate. The early chapters paint Pym as a young woman entirely obsessed with herself and her relationships on a very superficial level, an unflattering and unsympathetic
Apr 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This biography is so much more than even the rave reviews let on! What a portrait of a woman from young girl to her early death in her mid-sixties and the slow growth of a beloved, individual writer.

As all who love Barbara Pym know, she struggled for many many years to write something worth publishing. She then had six (I think) books published one after the other until quite suddenly, the small audience for her books (which seldom sold more than 4000 copies each, mostly purchased by lending lib
May 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

A truly immersive biography of one of my favourite writers, Barbara Pym. Comprehensive, eye-opening and affectionate, a wonderful read for any fan of Pym's work.

Byrne digs deep into the detail here, following Pym from her childhood in Shropshire to her twilight years in Oxfordshire, illuminating with great clarity and affection each distinct phase of the author’s life. The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym is written in the style of a picaresque narrative, which gives the book a jaunty to
Apr 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
It's hard to fault this new biography of Barbara Pym, which looks into the crannies of Pym's life that the earlier biography, by Hazel Holt, failed to probe (possibly because Holt had been a close friend of Pym's, and Pym's younger sister was still alive at the time). Much attention has been given in the media to Pym's relationship with a Nazi officer and her supposed flirtation with National Socialism, but Byrne sensibly sees this episode in the context of its time. When Pym first went to Germa ...more
Lydia Aldridge
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
My only qualm with this book: Oswestry is in the Midlands - not the north!
Lory Widmer Hess
Even though it was filled with exhaustive detail, often drawn directly from Pym's diaries and notebooks (she loved the minutiae of daily life), this biography left me oddly uncertain of the underlying motivations and even the personality of its subject. I felt that I had encountered lots of externals but very little of her inner being. The narrative made it clear that Pym's life had been marked by a succession of attachments to unavailable, uncaring, or downright repellent men (including one Naz ...more
Apr 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
Really wasn't for me. Not that the writing was a problem in terms of style, but I found it dull and uninteresting in terms of content. Hope others enjoy it more. ...more
Jun 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Paula Byrne’s witty, picaresque chapter headings and jaunty style channel Barbara Pym’s own joie de vivre, her quirky sense of humour and her ability to transmute the everyday and the commonplace, ‘the trivia of the common round’, into something extraordinary. I felt as if I had got to know Barbara Pym so well that when I came to the final chapter, in which she tries to survive her favourite season, spring, I cried all the way through it.

As a lifelong Barbara Pym fan, I was fascinated to learn
Ali Miremadi
Jun 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Byrne does brilliantly in her attempt to capture the spirit of Barbara Pym. At the beginning of this biography I feared the tone might be too light but as Byrne progresses through Pym’s life I came to appreciate how much it is a kind of stylistic and emotional tribute to Pym. I would have preferred a bit more about the books and a bit less detail on Pym’s romantic life but then it is a biography rather than a critical study. Just as in Pym’s own work there is great interest in the various ‘state ...more
May 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the most compelling biography I have ever read; an authentic page-turner. I wasn't a fan of Barbara Pym before reading this biog, having never read any of her novels--- but I am now and can't wait to start on her work!
I am in awe of Byrne's skill in crafting this biography. For sure, its gripping narrative, filled with salient detail, is greatly assisted by its reliance on Pym's copious diaries and writing notebooks, which she bequeathed to Oxford's Bodleian Library. Byrne's prose style
Apr 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this. I have recently reread all of Barbara Pym including the volume of selected diaries, notebook entries and other put together by her literary executor Hazel Holt, which obviously was a bit selective, not least because some of the people were still alive at the time. This fills in some of the gaps, particularly the visits to Germany in the 1930s (which involved initial enthusiasm for the Nazis and an affair with an SS officer), and her fling with Julian Amery (whom I met on ...more
Jun 11, 2021 rated it liked it
I liked this biography of an excellent writer but I did find the chapter headings and “humour” a bit much sometimes. “The woman who fell in love with a Nazi” jarred a bit but then it is true and Ms Byrne tackles all aspects of a complex life with honesty and integrity. I learned a lot about how a girl from Shropshire became a best selling author after much struggling. I especially enjoyed the Oxford chapters as I have often wondered what it would have been like to go up to Oxford as a student fr ...more
May 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I had never read a Barbara Pym novel - but will now. I heard parts of this book serialised on Radio 4 and it was proposed by a friend for a book group discussion.
I found it a scrupulously honest depiction of a woman and writer very much of her time. Her flirtation with Nazi Germany is openly examined as are all her friendships and loves. Best is the description of a talented and determined writer who keeps her chin up through personal and professional disappointments. Her most notable friendship
Terrence Gladstone
May 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
Paula Byrne’s new biography is enthusiastic and extensively researched and will almost certainly replace Hazel Holt’s biography of 1990, which was written by a close friend in cooperation with Pym’s sister and other friends. A contemporary book from a detached viewpoint is now needed.

Unfortunately Paula Byrne is a disappointment. She quite rightly wishes to counter the cosy image of Barbara Pym as “a spinster bicycling to Holy Communion”, a superficial view but not unknoown. Her main means to do
Kate Vane
Jun 09, 2021 rated it liked it
A breezy account of Pym's life, based on her archive, but I would have liked more analysis of her work and insight into her creative process.

Read my review on my blog
3.5 stars based on the abridged audiobook.
Olatomi Afilaka
Apr 28, 2021 rated it liked it
A biography of Miss Pym show 5he various struggles to becoming recognised in the literary world
Chris Warren
May 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Very enjoyable and to the point.
May 31, 2021 marked it as to-buy
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