Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Excellent Women

Finished Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. Pym states towards the end of this, her second novel, in a Jane Austen-like tone, "It is a known fact that people like clergymen's daughters, excellent women in their way, sometimes rush in where the less worthy might fear to tread." Poor Mildred Lathbury. She is herself both an excellent woman and a clergyman's daughter. She is single, in her thirties, living alone in London during the 1950s. She's very involved with her church and does charitable work with the Society for the Aid of Impoverished Gentlewomen half days during the week. She lives a quiet, modest life until the new couple in her building pulls her into their volatile personal life. She becomes a go-between with each of them, the wife's supposed lover as well as the removal men who come to take the husband's furniture away when he moves out. Never have I seen a woman so put upon by others (except perhaps Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop). There were times when I wanted to grab Mildred by the shoulders and shake her very hard indeed. Despite this, the book is humorous with the usual Pym parade of harried clergymen and opinionated spinsters. It was a comfortable, cozy read.