Skip to main content

Review: A Glass of Blessings, by Barbara Pym


Pages: 256

Original date of publication: 1958

My edition: 1980 (Perennial)

Why I decided to read: I’m on a mission to read all of Barbara Pym’s books

How I acquired my copy: from the Philadelphia Book trader, August 2010

A few years ago, when I first started reading Barbara Pym’s novels (with Excellent Women, which I think is a lot of people’s first Pym), I’d heard that her novels were a lot like Jane Austen’s. With a comparison like that, how could I pass that up? Barbara Pym’s novels are actually a lot funnier… but the humor is hidden.

This is the story of Wilmet Forsyth, a thirty-something housewife leading a leisured life with her civil servant husband. She spends her life involved with church work and attending classes, but her life isn’t all that fulfilling or fulfilled. Wilmet herself isn’t a person to like much; she’s incredibly superficial and narcissistic, concerned more with fashion (how often in the novel does she turn aside and tell the reader exactly what she’s wearing?) than in actually helping others. But she’s incredibly self-aware, and I think she knows on a deeper level what her faults are. Wilmet develops a friendship with Piers Longridge, a Portuguese translator and teacher (and a classic Barbara Pym character), who she imagines is in love with her. Little does she know that Piers’s attentions are focused elsewhere…

As I said, this book is incredibly funny, but the humor is hidden. The focus is on how people, especially within the constraints of Wilmet’s life, interact with each other on a small scale. You won’t see the major events of people’s lives described in Barbara Pym’s novels, but I think it’s the minutiae of people lives that are interesting; and that’s what make Barbara Pym’s books so good. There’s a crossover to Pym’s other books, too; Wilmet appears in No Fond Return of Love, and Prudence Bates of Jane and Prudence makes a cameo in A Glass of Blessings.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review: The Tudor Secret, by CW Gortner

Pages: 327Original date of publication:My edition: 2011 (St. Martin’s)Why I decided to read: Heard about this through Amazon.comHow I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, December 2010Originally published as The Secret Lion, The Tudor Secret is the first in what will be a series featuring Brendan Prescott, an orphan foundling who was raised in the household of the Dudley family. In 1553, King Edward is on his deathbed, and William Cecil gives a secret mission Brendan. Soon he finds himself working as a double agent, as he attempts to discover the secret of his own birth.There ‘s a lot to like in this novel, mainly in the historical details that the author weaves into the story. He knows Tudor history like the back of his hand, and it definitely shows in this book. Because it was his first novel, however, there are some rough patches. There were a couple of plot holes that I had trouble navigating around—primarily, why would a secretive man such as Cecil entrust a seemingly nobody with this …

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…