Barbara Pym’s world is at its funniest and most touching in Excellent Women.
Mildred Lathbury is one of those ‘excellent women’ who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, ‘capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life – birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather’.
As such, she often gets herself embroiled in other people’s lives – especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks. One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier.
‘One of the most endearingly amusing English novels of the twentieth century’ Alexander McCall Smith
‘I pick up her books with joy, as though I were meeting an old, dear friend who comforts me, extends my vision and makes me roar with laughter’ Jilly Cooper
‘Why shouldn’t the lives of cardigan-wearing spinsters and fussy confirmed bachelors be the engines of some of the finest comic writing in English? Not only was Pym a comic genius but she was ever so wise’ The Times
Not So Bad, Really
When I first read Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women in 1979 it certainly provoked a strong response, but hardly the admiration the cover blurb demanded for ‘one of the finest examples of high comedy...Read more