A Reader's Guide to Unfamiliar Literature
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A Good Place To Start

No Fond Return of Love 2
Excellent Women 1
Jane and Prudence 1

A Bad Place To Start

Jane and Prudence 2
The Sweet DOve Died 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Barbara Pym (1913 - 1980)

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

editor February 5th, 2006 09:25 AM PST

Barbara Pym's books are a wonderful treasure, dry and funny and ruthlessly observed--and sometimes, in an exhilarating way, piercingly sad. She is a terrific stylist (Iris Murdoch wrote of her that she was one of the "quietest but most accomplished English novelists writing"). Her protagonists tend to be single women in their thirties and forties living determinedly industrious if somewhat underpopulated lives.

I started her in the wrong place, with "The Sweet Dove Died," and never opened another of her books until a scandalized Pym partisan explained to me my mistake. She recommended "Excellent Women" as a starting point, or "No Fond Return of Love," and these are indeed both very good starts. Once you have a taste for her, all her books become irresistible.


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Pym was born in Oswestry, Shropshire. After studying English at St Hilda's College, Oxford, she served in the Women's Royal Naval Service during World War II. Her literary career is noteworthy because of the long hiatus between 1963 and 1977, when, despite early success and continuing popularity, she was unable to find a publisher for her richly comic novels.

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