Sunday, January 8, 2017
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (Review)
First Published in 1952.
Excellent Women is one of Barbara Pym’s richest and most amusing high comedies. 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 who 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.
This is my first novel by Barbara Pym. I did enjoy reading it. I love British literature. This book is set in 1950s England. The basic plot is set around the concept of excellent women. They are the women who are not married but are smart, supportive, repressed. The main character, Mildred Lathbury, is one of them. She is an only child of a clergyman. Her parents have been deceased and she is all alone except for friends. She is good friends with her vicar, Julian, and his sister Winifred. Winifred is another one of those excellent women. One day she gets new neighbors in her building, Helena and Rocky Napier. They are an unusual couple. Helena is an anthropologist. Rocky is in the military. They are opposites and fight often. Mildred gets drawn into their lives. They also help open her world. I loved the descriptions of people and surroundings in the book. The humor in it is understated. The situations Mildred finds herself in are interesting. I do not want to give away the whole plot but the ending fits the book.