Barbara Pym Fan Club discussion

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What's your favorite Pym novel?

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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 9 comments Mod
I still can't completely get over the first one I read: "No Fond Return of Love." I understood right away that Pym had poured some of her own character into the patient and very appealing Dulcie Mainwaring.

The ending is just fabulous -- I think it the best ending in all of Pym's works.


message 2: by Kristine (new)

Kristine | 9 comments So far, my favorite is "Jane and Prudence", because of all the references to having tea. I am an avid tea drinker, so this book really spoke to me.


message 3: by Djenneba (new)

Djenneba | 2 comments I just finished Jane and Prudence, and it just didn't seem right to read it without a pot of tea next to me. Of course, this time, the magical powers of Ovaltine to fix whatever is wrong struck me as they haven't in other Pym novels.


message 4: by Linda (new)

Linda (barbaradawnlinda) | 7 comments So, in J&P Pym talks Ovaltine? Just had my first mug of hot Ovaltine in 20 years the other night. Would be good to know I'm in good Pym company.


message 5: by Kristine (new)

Kristine | 9 comments I don't remember reading about Ovaltine in that book, but then again it has been a year or so since I've read it. When it is mentioned? I too, haven't had Ovaltine since I was a little girl! :)


message 6: by Djenneba (new)

Djenneba | 2 comments One of the local women suggests that their Member of Parliament drinks a "nourishing milk drink.....like Ovaltine" if he seems to be feeling overly tired. It's like the references to men needing meat, a good solid meal. It's all comes together to create such a wonderful picture.


message 7: by Dereka (new)

Dereka | 1 comments My two favorites (is that cheating?) are Less Than Angels and Crampton Hodnet but I have read all of them several times. I am glad to see that they are putting them back in print.


message 8: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited Jul 16, 2009 02:03PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) I remember, as a young man, my grandmother always mentioning the Barbara Pym novel she was reading or re-reading. After several friends recommended that I read her novels, I recently purchased Excellent Women, Less Than Angels, The Sweet Dove Died, and An Unsuitable Attachment. I am taking off on July 21st on a ten-day trip to Montana to visit my new little grandson, and a couple of Pyms will be traveling with me. I'm really looking forward to reading her books; and as I recently reread the Austen canon, it'll be fun to compare and contrast. I'll check back with all of you upon completion. Cheers! Chris


message 9: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 3 comments Christopher wrote: "I remember, as a young man, my grandmother always mentioning the Barbara Pym novel she was reading or re-reading. After several friends recommended that I read her novels, I recently purchased Exc..."

Chris, you'll find that Pym is a gem. I hope you're taking something by A.A. Milne, too.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Laurele wrote: "Christopher wrote: "I remember, as a young man, my grandmother always mentioning the Barbara Pym novel she was reading or re-reading. After several friends recommended that I read her novels, I re..."

Excellent suggestion! I think a bit of Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner might be lovely for both the daughter and the wee lad! Thank you for the tip! Cheers! Chris


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) I am in the midst of Pym's Some Tame Gazelle and loving it! Oh, what dears are Harriet and Belinda. One reads for just a few minutes, and one magically finds oneself completely immersed and inside this quiet and lovely little world that she's created with her novels. This is seriously some good writing! Cheers! Chris


message 12: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca I feel the same. When I read Excellent women I thought all the time how fun it would be to meet Mildred and Helena.


message 13: by Idiosyncratic (last edited Nov 28, 2009 11:22PM) (new)

Idiosyncratic | 15 comments For blissful, cosy enjoyment, Excellent Women and Some Tame Gazelle are a tie. (In fact, I love all of her books with a church-y feel to them.) But for literary merit, Quartet in Autumn. (Btw, chocolate Ovaltine is my favourite version - not strictly correct in a Pym context, of course.)


message 14: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 3 comments Idiosyncratic wrote: "For blissful, cosy enjoyment, Excellent Women and Some Tame Gazelle are a tie. (In fact, I love all of her books with a church-y feel to them.) But for literary merit, Quartet in Autumn. (Btw, choc..."

I got into the chocolate Ovaltine habit while reading Some Tame Gazelle! It's been a while since I read Excellent Women and Quartet in Autumn, but I think I would agree with you on the literary merit of Quartet.



message 15: by Idiosyncratic (new)

Idiosyncratic | 15 comments Leola - Just so you know, Quartet is a slightly sad novel - quite different than most of her others.


message 16: by Ivan (new)

Ivan I love OUARTET IN AUTUMN, but my favorite has been and remains THE SWEET DOVE DIED - I'd love to see Emma Thompson adapt and star in a film of this. Why are there no film adaptations of Barbara Pym books.


message 17: by Laura (new)

Laura (digifish_books) | 1 comments Having just completed No Fond Return of Love I believe it is every bit as good as (my other Pym favourite), Excellent Women.


message 18: by Ivan (new)

Ivan I've only just started Jane and Prudence, but thus far it's a real treat.


message 19: by Ivan (new)

Ivan Ivan wrote: "I've only just started Jane and Prudence, but thus far it's a real treat."

It was indeed a treat. My friend Wil is reading it now (and has already called to express his joy).

I've ordered A Few Green Leaves and will start it the moment it arrives.


message 20: by Alexander (last edited Jun 19, 2011 07:35PM) (new)

Alexander Inglis (sensualpoet) Having only read on Barbara Pym -- A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym A Glass of Blessings -- it's my favourite. It was her fifth of seven novels. :)

I posted a review a while back here.

It was a totally unexpected -- and unexpectedly delightful -- read. No wonder Barbara Pym was hailed twice by the Times Literary Supplement as "the most underrated novelist of the century".


message 21: by Leanna (new)

Leanna (mrschristie) I think my favourite is Excellent Women, however any time I re-read any others I immediately remember why it's so hard to choose a favourite!


message 22: by Judith (new)

Judith Deborah | 1 comments You've all got me curious now about No Fond Return of Love. So far my favorite is definitely Excellent Women. I'd put Mildred Lathbury right up there beside Dorothea Brooke as one of the most lovable and wonderful heroines in all fiction. (And she's got a much better sense of humor.)


message 23: by Laura (new)

Laura | 6 comments For me it's a tie between Excellent Women and Crampton Hodnet, although I do love No Fond Return of Love, too. Each has a very specific "feel". Everard Bone is my favorite male character, though, and for that reason I find myself re-reading Excellent Women again and again.


message 24: by Laura (new)

Laura | 6 comments Quartet in Autumn was lovely, although it was quite sad. I was not expecting it to be that way, but there was a bit of humor intermingled with the melancholy.


message 25: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cindyfried) | 4 comments Only on my third Pym (so much to look forward to!), and thus far it's definitely Excellent Women in the lead. Almost finished Some Tame Gazelle, but finding it hard to credit any woman as astute as Belinda could be in love with the dull Archdeacon for 30 years (not a spoiler, one learns as much early on, and it certainly wouldn't spoil the plot anyway). But I listen in the car and it is a total joy, and I arrive at work in a very jolly mood.


message 26: by Idiosyncratic (new)

Idiosyncratic | 15 comments Serenknitity - I think Pym modeled Belinda's love for the Archdeacon on her own lengthy passion for Henry Harvey. It's certainly proof that some women (myself included, when I was younger) can manage to re-fashion quite dull, unremarkable men into demi-gods - at least in our own deluded minds. Pym was inclined to do that too.

It's interesting that I recently re-read No Fond Return of Love and An Unsuitable Attachment and, for the first time, found them slightly depressing. This won't stop me from, at some point, re-reading them yet again, however it was (literally!)a novel experience. (Hahaha.)

On a completely different note, I do love a quote I came across in Hazel Holt's biography of Pym, A Lot To Ask (the comment was sent to Pym by a friend) - the image is so compelling and startling - and certainly nothing one would ever encounter in today's world:

"I have have been reading a delightful, though perhaps rather bitchy new book by Fr. Stephenson about Walsingham and Fr. H.P. There is a vignette of H.P. instructing the Sunday school children on what to do when confronted with an unbaptized person dying in a railway carriage."

It just made me laugh...


message 27: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cindyfried) | 4 comments Certainly not today's world! I just bought a second-hand 'A Very Private Eye', which is an autobiography in letters and diaries. It came from the US via Amazon and I'm pleased as punch.

There is a picture of Henry Harvey, blurred and he's looking down, but fascinating for all that.


message 28: by Louise (new)

Louise Culmer | 12 comments Excellent Women is my favourite, i find it the most satisfying story. jane and prudence is a close second, so funny. Those two are the ones I re-read most often.


message 29: by Jon (new)

Jon  Blanchard  | 3 comments Just after Barbara Pym’s death I and my partner subscribed to a memorial reading desk for Finstock church. We were invited to the Sunday morning service when it was dedicated. Henry Harvey read the lesson but I didn’t realise who he was.

My favourite is A Glass of Blessings because written in the 1950s, it finds gay men totally unproblematic, although spot on about certain gay characteristics, eg fussy domesticity. Keith, so beautiful and so boring and so sweet, is a wonderful character.


message 30: by Louise (new)

Louise Culmer | 12 comments glass of Blessings is very amusing, I love Keith, also Wilf Bason.


message 31: by Lynn (new)

Lynn (lynnf) | 1 comments I am on my second Barbara Pym novel and have fallen in love with her writing style and characters. I finished Some Tame Gazelle and adored it. I immediately ordered Excellent Women and am really enjoying it too. Was delighted to read the Archdeacons appearance in Excellent Women. Like unexpectedly meeting an old friend far from where you'd expect to. Just loving Barbara Pym!


message 32: by Louise (new)

Louise Culmer | 12 comments I am glad you are enjoying her novels. YOu will find that characters from previous novels tend to make guest appearances in the next one - or in one case at least, a minor character becomes a more important one in a later novel.


message 33: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie (bonnie12) | 1 comments My favourite one is "Crampton Hodnet" .
My first Pym's novel was "Quartet in Autumn", it's sad but lovely too... I Like both of them !



(Sorry for my mistakes, English is not my mother language)


message 34: by Carreen (new)

Carreen | 1 comments Quartet in Autumn and Excellent Women are my favorites.

But I must agree that No Fond Return is great as well!


message 35: by Erica (new)

Erica | 1 comments I stumbled across Some Tame Gazelle years ago and never looked back. This one remains my favorite and the one I tend to re-read the most.


message 36: by Jean-Pierre (new)

Jean-Pierre Herman | 1 comments I love Some Tame Gazelle as well. Together with A Glass of Blessings. But it's so hard to choose. Except for An Academic Question which is very low in my esteem.


message 37: by Robin (new)

Robin | 3 comments Jean-Pierre wrote: "I love Some Tame Gazelle as well. Together with A Glass of Blessings. But it's so hard to choose. Except for An Academic Question which is very low in my esteem."

Possibly my response will never be read, as I see no one has commented since September 2019. However, I'd like to defend An Academic Question. I think that Pym was trying something new here, and was introducing material that is not so obvious in her other novels. In most of her novels Pym uses village images to soften her sometimes sharp commentary on society, including female/male relations. In An Academic Question she attempts to be more open about her views, and this results in it probably being the least liked of her novels. The main character is struggling through a new world for women - she is not particularly fond of domestic life, but has little opportunity to excel elsewhere. She is 'an academic wife' and as such is expected to support her husband - even to stealing the papers he wants for his research. Pym's notes on writing this novel suggest that she had difficulties - she wanted to write a Margaret Drabble type of work. She felt she had failed, and indeed she does. however, her own sense of humour saves it, in my opinion. And, perhaps more importantly, she attempts to move through the comforting images in most of her other novels (except Quartet in Autumn) to achieve something new.


message 38: by Jon (new)

Jon  Blanchard  | 3 comments Just read it !


message 39: by Robin (last edited May 22, 2020 04:49AM) (new)

Robin | 3 comments Terrence wrote: "Just read it !"

Fabulous. I must get it out of my bookshelf and reread. I just wrote the above off the top of my head. I gave a paper on An Academic Question at a Pym Conference several years ago, and defended Carolyn. Oh dear. No one liked her at all! It was quite a fun discussion. My paper might be in the Barbara Pym online material which is written and moderated by the North American Barbara Pym group. If you are interested, that is. Anyway - thank you for responding. I have to admit my favourites are Excellent Women , Some Tame Gazelle and The Sweet Dove Died.


message 40: by Jon (new)

Jon  Blanchard  | 3 comments I meant I just read your post. I think publishing An Academic Question was a mistake. The Sweet Dove Died by contrast is a great success and an obvious attempt to write about an un-Pym milieu, ie no church. Ned and Leonora are very different in background from other Pym characters and totally convincing


message 41: by Robin (new)

Robin | 3 comments Your feeling about An Academic Question is indeed one school of thought. I'm interested in what motivated her literary executor who was meticulous in her assessment of what to publish. In my view often too meticulous as there is a huge amount of unpublished material in the Bodleian. This includes some short stories with particularly strong social commentary. I've tended toward thinking that if Jane Austen's Juvenilia was published, Pym's less than perfect work should not diminish the strength of her stronger work. Anything she wrote is really fascinating and I feel honoured to have been able to read all of it in her workbooks and diaries. Yes, yes, yes to The Sweet Dove Died. . What a novel!


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