Dear Great Book Guru, Next week my friends and I are attending the annual Barbara Pym literary conference at Harvard . It is always a great weekend and to prepare, I would like to read or reread one of Pym’s novels. Please suggest a favorite of yours. A Very Enthusiastic Pymite
Dear Enthusiastic Pymite, I have just finished rereading LESS THAN ANGELS by Pym and it was a delight from start to finish. The story opens in 1950’s London at a reception for anthropologists, some returning from Africa, some students beginning their careers, plus a bevy of eccentric administrators and wealthy benefactors. Catherine Oliphant, a writer of romance novels is somewhat involved with Tom Mallow, a “callow” younger researcher recently back from the field. She is the true anthropologist here and a stand-in for Pym herself. Catherine observes those around her, recording their patterns and eccentricities in exquisite detail. When the story shifts to the London suburbs, we meet sisters Rhonda and Mabel whose days are filled with observing neighbors, friends, and relatives and we realize we are experiencing yet another anthropological study. When the story moves to the countryside, we soon recognize the rituals with which the landed gentry organize their lives. Throughout, we see Pym at her best: describing the smallness of life in all its grandeur. However and wherever, people will find meaning in the distractions which make up their lives and ….ours. Highly recommended!