Barbara Pym - Author

About the Author

Barbara Pym (1913-80) was born in Shropshire and educated at St Hilda's College, Oxford. When in 1977 the TLS asked critics to name the most underrated authors of the past 75 years, only one was named twice (by Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil): Barbara Pym. Her novels are characterised by what Anne Tyler has called 'the heartbreaking silliness of everyday life'.

 

Fellow novelist Katharine McMahon on Barbara Pym...

This choice is in part in memory of my mother, who loved Pym (and Jane Austen) and who shared her with me.  Pym has a wicked eye for the small things, and creates a world in which the minutiae of life really matters to the characters, as it does to us all.  I love her clergymen and her worried, well-meaning ladies.  Her great gift was to make us smile with, not at, the quiet absurdity of life.

 

Author photo © Mayotte Magnu

Featured books by Barbara Pym

Other books by Barbara Pym

Excellent Women

Excellent Women

Author: Barbara Pym Format: eBook Release Date: 15/03/2016

Excellent Women is one of Barbara Pym's richest and most amusing high comedies. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest.Mildred Lathbury is a clergyman's daughter and a mild-mannered spinster in 1950s England. She is one of those excellent women, the smart, supportive, repressed women whom men take for granted.As Mildred gets embroiled in the lives of her new neighbors-anthropologist Helena Napier and her handsome, dashing husband, Rocky, and Julian Malory, the vicar next door-the novel presents a series of snapshots of human life as actually, and pluckily, lived in a vanishing world of manners and repressed desires.

Excellent Women Mug

Excellent Women Mug

Author: Barbara Pym, Alexander McCall Smith Format: Miscellaneous print Release Date: 26/11/2015

Using the cover artwork of our much-loved Virago Modern Classics hardback range, these elegant notebooks celebrate three of our most popular titles: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; Excellent Women by Barbara Pym and Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. They are a must-have for all Virago fans, and are surely the most stylish way of collecting notes on your favourite books. Or maybe it will inspire you to write a novel of your own . . . Each notebook features a ribbon bookmark, high-quality paper and matching endpapers. Rebecca and Excellent Women feature artwork by award-winning textile designer Neisha Crosland: www.neishacrosland.com Valley of the Dolls features artwork by textile designer and founder of Biba, Barbara Hulanicki: www.barbarahulanickidesign.com

Excellent Women unlined notebook

Excellent Women unlined notebook

Author: Barbara Pym, Alexander McCall Smith Format: Miscellaneous print Release Date: 26/11/2015

Using the cover artwork of our much-loved Virago Modern Classics hardback range, these elegant porcelain mugs celebrate three of our most popular titles: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; Excellent Women by Barbara Pym and Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. They are a must-have for all Virago fans, and are surely the most stylish way to enjoy your morning coffee! Each mug is presented in a beautiful gift-box with corresponding artwork. The mugs are dishwasher and microwave safe. Rebecca and Excellent Women feature artwork by award-winning textile designer Neisha Crosland: www.neishacrosland.com Valley of the Dolls features artwork by textile designer and founder of Biba, Barbara Hulanicki: www.barbarahulanickidesign.com

Quartet in Autumn

Quartet in Autumn

Author: Barbara Pym, Alexander McCall Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/10/2015

With an introduction by Alexander McCall Smith One did not drink sherry before the evening, just as one did not read a novel in the morning. In 1970s London Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia work in the same office and suffer the same problem - loneliness. Lovingly and with delightful humour, Pym conducts us through their day-to-day existence: their preoccupations, their irritations, their judgements, and - perhaps most keenly felt - their worries about having somehow missed out on life as post-war Britain shifted around them. Deliciously, blackly funny and full of obstinate optimism, Quartet in Autumn shows Barbara Pym's sensitive artistry at its most sparkling. A classic from one of Britain's most loved and highly acclaimed novelists, its world is both extraordinary and familiar, revealing the eccentricities of everyday life.

The Sweet Dove Died

The Sweet Dove Died

Author: Barbara Pym Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/03/2013

Between the amorous antique dealer Humphrey and his good-looking nephew James glides the magnificent Leonora, delicate as porcelain, cool as ice. Can she keep James in her thrall? Or will he be taken from her by a lover, like Phoebe . . . or Ned, the wicked American? 'A highly distinctive and - ultimately - charitable novel' Financial Times 'Faultless' Guardian 'Her Characters are all meticulously impaled on the delicate pins of a wit that is as scrupulous as it is deadly' Observer 'A coldly funny book' Sunday Telegraph 'Highly distinctive . . . the critics who have recently insisted on Miss Pym's too long neglected gifts have not been wrong' Financial Times

An Unsuitable Attachment

An Unsuitable Attachment

Author: Barbara Pym Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/03/2013

Set in St Basil's, an undistinguished North London parish, An Unsuitable Attachment is indeed full of the high comedy for which Barbara Pym is famed. There is Mark Ainger, the vicar, who introduces his sermons with remarks like `Those of you who are familiar with the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.' His wife Sophia with her cat, `I feel sometimes that I can't reach Faustina as I've reached other cats.' Rupert Stonebird, anthropologist and eligible bachelor. The well-bred Ianthe Broome who works at the library and forms an unsuitable attachment with a young man there. The sharp-tongue Mervyn Cantrell, chief librarian, who complains that `when books have things spilt on them it is always bottled sauce or gravy of the thickest and most repellent kind rather than something utterly exquisite and delicious.' There is also Daisy Pettigrew, the vet's sister, another obsessional cat person, and Sister Dew who bears a strong resemblance to Sister Blatt in Excellent Women.

A Few Green Leaves

A Few Green Leaves

Author: Barbara Pym Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/03/2013

Barbara Pym was an incomparable chronicler of ordinary, quiet lives. With warmth, humour, precision and great vividness, she gave her best characters an independent life we recognise as totally familiar. In A Few Green Leaves, her last novel, her heroine is Emma Howick, anthropologist. Through her eyes Barbara Pym examines in her own ironic and individual style the quiet revolution in English village life, combining the rural settings of her earliest novels with the themes and characters of her later works. The result is a compelling portrait of a town that seems to be forgotten by time, but which is unmistakably affected by it. Romance shares the pages with death in this engaging novel that is the culmination of Barbara Pym's acclaimed writing career. 'I could go on reading her for ever' A L Rowse, Punch 'A vivid sense of how we live now' New Statesman 'Her sense of brilliant comedy is a direct inheritance from Jane Austen' Hibernia 'A beautifully written, very delicate comedy' The Times Literary Supplement

Glass of Blessings

Glass of Blessings

Author: Barbara Pym Format: eBook Release Date: 22/01/2013

Barbara Pym's early novel takes us into 1950s England, as seen through the funny, engaging, yearning eyes of a restless housewifeWilmet Forsyth is bored. Bored with the everyday routine of her life. Bored with teatimes filled with local gossip. Bored with her husband, Rodney, a civil servant who dotes on her. But on her thirty-third birthday, Wilmet's conventional life takes a turn when she runs into the handsome brother of her close friend.Attractive and enigmatic, Piers Longridge is a mystery Wilmet is determined to solve. Rather than settling down, he lived in Portugal, then returned to England for a series of odd jobs. Driven by a fantasy of romance, the sheltered, nave Englishwoman sets out to seduce Piersonly to discover that he isn't the man she thinks he is.As cozy as sharing a cup of tea with an old friend, A Glass of Blessings explores timeless themes of sex, marriage, religion, and friendship while exposing our flaws and foibles with wit, compassion, and a generous helping of love.

Jane and Prudence

Jane and Prudence

Author: Barbara Pym Format: eBook Release Date: 22/01/2013

Barbara Pym affectionately skewers the charms, eccentricities, and secret yearnings of British middle-class life Jane Cleveland and Prudence Bates were close friends at Oxford University, but now live very different lives. Forty-one-year-old Jane lives in the country, is married to a vicar, has a daughter she adores, and lives a very proper life in a very proper English parish. Prudence, a year shy of thirty, lives in London, has an office job, and is self-sufficient and fiercely independentuntil Jane decides her friend should be married. Jane has the perfect husband in mind for her former pupil: a widower named Fabian Driver.But there are other women vying for Fabian's attention. And Pru is nursing her own highly inappropriate desire for her older, married, and seemingly oblivious employer, Dr. Grampian. What follows is a witty, delightful, trenchant story of manners, morals, family, and female bonding that redefines the social novel for a new generation.

No Fond Return of Love

No Fond Return of Love

Author: Barbara Pym Format: eBook Release Date: 22/01/2013

Three lonely people come together in this poignant and witty novel of thwarted dreams, scandalous secrets, and star-crossed romance After being jilted by her fiance, Dulcie Mainwaring despairs of ever finding true love. For a distraction, she goes to a publishing conference, where she meets Viola Dace, a dramatic woman who refuses to live without romance, as well as Aylwin Forbes, an editor whom Viola adores. The fact that Aylwin is married doesn't stop Viola. When her amorous pursuit prompts Aylwin's wife to leave him, the academic heartthrob is wide open to Viola's romantic attentions. That is, until Dulcie's eighteen-year-old niece moves in with Viola, and the young girl soon catches Aylwin's roving eye.Set in London in the early 1960s, No Fond Return of Love is a delightful comedy of manners that comes full circle as Dulcie discovers a love as unexpected as it is liberating.

Some Tame Gazelle

Some Tame Gazelle

Author: Barbara Pym Format: eBook Release Date: 22/01/2013

Barbara Pym's first novel offers a self-assured slice of village life as it takes us into the lives of two sisters living in postWorld War II England Belinda and Harriet Bede live together in a small English village. Shy, sensible Belinda has been secretly in love with Henry Hocclevethe poetry-spouting, married archdeacon of their churchfor thirty years. Belinda's much more confident, forthright younger sister Harriet, meanwhile, is ardently pursued by Count Ricardo Bianco. Although she has turned down every marriageable man who proposes, Harriet still welcomes any new curate with dinner parties and flirtatious conversation. And one of the newest arrivals, the reverend Edgar Donne, has everyone talking.A warm, affectionate depiction of a postwar English village, Some Tame Gazelle perfectly captures the quotidian details that make up everyday life. With its vibrant supporting cast, it's also a poignant story of unrequited love.

Less Than Angels

Less Than Angels

Author: Barbara Pym Format: eBook Release Date: 22/01/2013

This classic novel holds the mirror up to human nature and the battle between the sexes as it explores the love lives of a group of anthropologists Catherine Oliphant writes for women's magazines and lives comfortably with anthropologist Tom Mallowalthough she's starting to wonder if they'll ever get married. Then Tom drops his bombshell: He's leaving her for nineteen-year-old student Deirdre Swan. Though stunned by Tom's betrayal, Catherine quickly becomes fascinated by another anthropologist, Alaric Lydgate, a reclusive eccentric recently returned from Africa. As Catherine starts to weigh her options she gradually realizes who she is and what she really wants.With its lively cast of characters, Less Than Angels is an incisive social satire that opens a window onto the insular world of academia. It's also a poignant and playful riff on the messy mating habits of humans and the traits that separate us from our anthropological forebearsfar fewer than we may imagine.

Crampton Hodnet

Crampton Hodnet

Author: Barbara Pym, Louis de Bernieres Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2012

Formidable Miss Doggett fills her life by giving tea parties to young academics and acting as watchdog of the morals of North Oxford. Anthea, her great-niece, is in love with a dashing upper-class undergraduate with political ambitions. Of this, Miss Doggett thoroughly approves. Anthea's father, however, an Oxford don, is tired of his marriage and carrying on in the most unseemly fashion with his student Barbara Bird - they have been spotted together at the British Museum! Miss Doggett isn't aware, though, that under her very own roof the lodging curate has proposed to her paid companion Miss Morrow. She wouldn't approve of that at all.

An Academic Question

An Academic Question

Author: Barbara Pym, Kate Saunders Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/05/2012

A delightful comedy of manners with a touch of mystery, An Academic Question is prime Barbara Pym territory. In a provincial university town Caro Grimstone, a dissatisfied faculty wife, becomes the unwilling accomplice to her husband Alan's ambitions. When she volunteers as a reader to a blind, esteemed anthropologist, Alan seizes the opportunity to steal his papers - research that could both advance his reputation while refuting the findings of a respected colleague.

Civil To Strangers

Civil To Strangers

Author: Barbara Pym, Hazel Holt Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/07/2011

When Barbara Pym died in 1980 she left a considerable amount of unpublished material. This volume contains an early novel, CIVIL TO STRANGERS, three novellas and an autobiographical essay, 'Finding a Voice', Pym's only written comment on her writing career. In CIVIL TO STRANGERS the lives of a young couple, Cassandra Marsh-Gibbon and her self-absorbed writer husband Adam, are thrown into upheaval when a mysterious Hungarian arrives in their village.

A Glass Of Blessings

A Glass Of Blessings

Author: Barbara Pym, John Bayley Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/12/2009

Wilmet Forsyth is well dressed, well looked after, suitably husbanded, good looking and fairly young - but very bored. Her husband Rodney, a handsome army major, is slightly balder and fatter than he once was. Wilmet would like to think she has changed rather less. Her interest wanders to the nearby Anglo-catholic church, where at last she can neglect her comfortable household in the more serious-minded company of three unmarried priests, and, of course, Piers Longridge, a man of an unfathomably different character altogether.

Some Tame Gazelle

Some Tame Gazelle

Author: Barbara Pym, Mavis Cheek Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2009

It was odd that Harriet should always have been so fond of curates. They were so immature and always made the same kind of conversation. Now the Archdeacon was altogether different . . . ' Together yet alone, the Misses Bede occupy the central crossroads of parish life. Harriet, plump, elegant and jolly, likes nothing better than to make a fuss of new curates, secure in the knowledge that elderly Italian Count Ricardo Bianco will propose to her yet again this year. Belinda, meanwhile has harboured sober feelings of devotion towards Archdeacon Hochleve for thirty years. Then into their quiet, comfortable lives comes a famous librarian, Nathaniel Mold, and a bishop from Africa, Theodore Grote - who each take to calling on the sisters for rather more unsettling reasons.

No Fond Return Of Love

No Fond Return Of Love

Author: Barbara Pym, Paul Binding Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/01/2009

Dulcie Mainwearing is always helping others, but never looks out for herself - especially in the realm of love. Her friend Viola is besotted by the alluring Dr Aylwin Forbes, so surely it isn't prying if Dulcie helps things along? Aylwin, however, is smitten by Dulcie's pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it may be, is falling, just a little, for Aylwin. Once life's little humiliations are played out, maybe love will be returned, and fondly, after all . . .

Excellent Women

Excellent Women

Author: Barbara Pym, Alexander McCall Smith Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/05/2008

Cover design by Orla Kiely Mildred Lathbury is one of those 'excellent women' who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, 'capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life - birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather'. As such, though, she often gets herself embroiled in other people's lives - and especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks. One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially when Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest and most touching.

Jane And Prudence

Jane And Prudence

Author: Barbara Pym, Jilly Cooper Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/12/2007

Over the years, as Barbara Pym replaced Nancy Mitford, Georgette Heyer, even Jane Austen, as my most loved author, I devoured all her books, but JANE AND PRUDENCE remains my favourite. Even an umpteenth reading this weekend was punctuated by gasps of joy, laughter and wonder that this lovely book should remain so fresh, funny and true to life' Jilly Cooper 'The setting of this very funny novel, one of Barbara Pym's earliest, is an English village where Jane's husband is the newly appointed vicar, and where Prudence will pay Jane a visit and find herself courted by a fatuous young widower. Prudence, at twenty-nine, has achieved nothing in life but a dull research job in London and a string of dud affairs; Jane, now in her forties, was Prudence's tutor at Oxford. Jane cheerfully concedes that she is an incompetent housewife, but she hopes that the move to a rural parish may transform her into a Trollopean vicar's wife, as well as a crafty matchmaker. There are many comic complications here, as Jane learns that matchmaking has as many pitfalls as does housewifery' The New Yorker

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