An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym

It’s a while since I finished reading An Unsuitable Attachment. Judith, Reader in the Wilderness and I were going to have a bit of a readalong originally but I’m not sure if she ever got around to it, due to her work commitments.

If you want to read about Barbara Pym’s career you’ll find this Telegraph article by Philip Hensher interesting.

An Unsuitable Attachment was first published in 1982, after Pym’s death. It had been turned down by her publisher in 1963, deemed to be too old fashioned for the times and thought to be unlikely to sell well. It isn’t one of my favourites but it’s still worthwhile reading.

The setting is London and there’s the usual cast of characters, a vicar and his wife, some librarians, neighbours, church parishioners and of course I can’t miss out the cat called Faustina. The book does seem quite dated, for instance ‘shillings’ are mentioned and of course by the time the book was eventually published the UK had embraced decimalisation and shillings didn’t exist any more.

There is a foreword by the poet Philip Larkin who was a friend of Barbara Pym’s and he said: ‘She has a unique eye and ear for the small poignancies and comedies of everyday life.’

I must just mention that I was perusing a blog a while ago and came across a post about Barbara Pym in which the writer claimed that Pym’s career had been successful because of readers who had sort of passed the word around about her. I had to laugh as that seems like teenagers who always think that THEY are the ones who discovered sex.

Barbara Pym’s career in writing was at a standstill for years after An Unsuitable Attachment, her seventh novel was rejected by her publisher. It wasn’t until Lord David Cecil and Philip Larkin wrote praising her work in the Times Literary Supplement in 1977 that her career was kick started again and her books have all been in print since then. I know this because I was one of the many people who started reading her books then, well as a Jane Austen fan I had to compare the two, as Pym was being hailed as a modern day Austen.

It does help to have friends in high places, it’s a shame that all deserving authors don’t have the same luck.