I borrowed this book from Dunfermline library which is the first ever Andrew Carnegie library. I was just having a mooch around to see what they had different because it isn’t my local library, and ended up looking at the large print books. This Barbara Pym book jumped out at me, I didn’t even realise it had been published. I think I read most of her books way back in the 1970s.
It’s a collection of unpublished Pym works, some of them unfinished but a lot of the characters are quite recognisable as she was into recycling and waste not want not, like all people of her generation, and she did the same with her characters.
In my experience, some scenes from Barbara Pym’s books linger in my memory forever so I was amused to see that she has a vicar giving a sermon, the idea for which he had got from an elderly parshioner. She had mentioned to him that some people didn’t put enough stitches into their embroidery. It was similar to a vicar in another of her books, I can’t remember which one, but he got an idea for a sermon from one of the church cleaning ladies who mentioned that she got more satisfaction from polishing the wood than the brass.
Anyway, this collection contains an early novel, three novellas and an autobiographical essay, “Finding a Voice”, which is Pym’s only written comment on her writing career. There is also an unfinished Home Front Novel which she began to write in 1939 but war work seems to have got in the way of her finishing it, which is such a shame because I was enjoying it.
Apart from anything else Barbara Pym was a great observer of people and she must have met quite a few ghastly ones in her time, particularly in the drawing-rooms of North Oxford, but I’m sure we’ve all met the same types, wherever we are in the world. Her men are just – something else, but worryingly she gets certain characters absolutely spot on. I’ve come across a lot of self obsessed and idiotic, lecturing males in recent months, and honestly, if I couldn’t laugh at them, I’d be screaming!