Monday, 7 September 2009

Barbara Pym 531, 536, 541, 543

I'm glad that you all seemed to enjoy reading my Daphne Du Maurier posts while I was on holiday; I was so impressed by her output when I saw it in the series of blog posts. What an amazing writer!

I re-discovered Pym earlier this year, having read some of her books when I was younger, and was instantly re-captivated by her wit and amazing social commentary abilities. She generally describes middle England and its characters but in a way that I would defy anyone to find amusing.

The only VMC I read while I was away was a Barbara Pym and that was Excellent Women, which is the latest Pym to be re-released as a VMC. There is a little mystery about it though, in that it was published as one of the anniversary hardbacks (which was the edition that I read), and the back of the book claims that it is VMC #30. However, this doesn't seem to correspond with the list that I have, and indeed I've not seen any other edition of Excellent Women.

Excellent Women is the "excellent" story of "spinsters, vicars and anthropologists" as a reviewer on Amazon puts it. It is the story of Mildred (the spinster) who becomes embroiled in the lives of her new neighbours downstairs, which takes her beyond the world she has previously been involved in (working part-time for the Gentle-woman's association and acting as a pillar for the church (the vicars)) to one involving anthropology and being taken out on dates. It is really interesting because it presents the concept of the single-unmarried woman, and shows that many of them "Excellent women" who were fairly content with their lot, but given the opportunity could really expand their world.

Here are the two Virago editions:

The hardback edition features a cover design by Orla Kelly and has an introduction by Alexander McCall Smith.

I'm going to take this opportunity to highlight the other Pym books which have been republished very recently by Virago as Modern Classics. I own the whole set, and think that the covers are wonderful (and indeed have been the subject of a post by Paperback Reader, although I read them previously in the non-VMC editions. Here they are:

A Glass of blessings is going to be released at the beginning of December, and although I've read it, I shall pre-order it to complete my set!


  1. I LOVED No Fond Return of Love!

  2. I've only read Excellent Women but I want to read more. I love the new Virago covers. And I also am happy that Virago is publishing Daphne du Maurier--I have quite a few of those myself! )

  3. I want to read Jane and Prudence, and have wanted so for a long time. It's time I did somethign about it and got myself a copy!
    I have Quartet In Autumn sitting in my bookshelf, it was her great comeback novel (if I remember correctly) and got very good reviews.

  4. I've only read Quartet in Autumn by her, which was delightful, if a bit sad. I must read more.

  5. These covers are beautiful and I'm looking forward to completing my set once I've read the ones I have. Can't wait to read Excellent Women now based on your review!

  6. Virago will also be republishing 'Less than Angels' in April 2010. Another one to collect! :)

  7. Yes, am very excited about that. They do look nice on the bookshelf.