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Review: An Unsuitable Attachment, by Barbara Pym

Pages: 256
Original date of publication: 1982
My edition: 1983 (Perennial)
Why I decided to read: I was in the mood for reading Barbara Pym
How I acquired my copy: the Philly Book Trader, August 2010

An Unsuitable Attachment is Barbara Pym at her best, with all the elements that make one of her novels so good. Set in the parish of St. Basil’s in London (although it feels small village-ish), this is a romantic comedy about a vicar and his wife, her sister, an anthropologist, and a “gentlewoman.” The book is punctuated by a lovely springtime trip the characters take to Rome.

This novel is vintage Pym: “genteel” ladies and spinsters, and a gentle romantic comedy set in a parish community. It’s funny and sharp, and the characters are very much in Barbara Pym’s style. Ianthe Broome is one of the independent “excellent women” that Pym writes so well about; Rupert Stonebird is an anthropologist whose single status makes him a victim for the matchmaking ladies of the parish (but the reader has a sneaking suspicion that he’s a bit of a cad). Even Faustina, Sophia Ainger’s cat, is a character unto herself (although I felt her emotional dependence on the cat was a little disturbing sometimes). The romance aspect of the book takes a back seat to the characters, which is just as well considering that the characters are so strong.

I loved the fact that this novel was set, albeit briefly, in Rome; some of the comments that some of the narrow-minded characters make are hysterical (since Pym has a habit of mercilessly poking fun at people). An Unsuitable Attachment is classic Barbara Pym, and probably one of my favorites by her.


Aarti said…
I read Barbara Pym's Excellent Women some time ago and had a very strong emotional reaction to it- it was so well-written but so, so sad and lonely that it was hard to read at some points. But I definitely plan to read more of her in future because she is very astute!
Karen K. said…
Aargh, I completely forgot Barbara Pym when I was making up my Classics Club list! And I've still only read one of her books. Maybe I need to take some Victorians off in favor of BP. . . this one sounds really good and I love the fact that it's short. Would be a nice break from some of the doorstoppers I'm planning to read.

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