Monday, July 4, 2016

The Classics Club: Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

(about the Classics Club)

This is another classic I found while browsing the used bookstore.  I had never heard of Barbara Pym, but Excellent Women looked interesting, so I bought it.  Afterwards, I found that it was considered to be a modern classic, and therefore perfect for the Classics Club.

What caught my interest about this book was that one reviewer mentioned that she was a 20th century Jane Austen.  Austen being my favorite author, I was intrigued.  I have to say, I was not disappointed.  Excellent Women is a social commentary as well as a light comedy, with a gentle style of storytelling.  I was reminded at times of Mansfield Park and other times of Pride and Prejudice, but Excellent Women was never a copy of Austen.  

The "excellent women" are those spinsters over 30 who find themselves involved in all sorts of doing-good, from interfering in marriages to working in church bazaars.  While most of the characters were condescending to the excellent women, Pym shows a great sympathy towards them.  (Could this be that she, too, was an over 30 spinster?)   It is told from the first person point of view of Mildred, one of the excellent women, and this was perfectly done, with Mildred's voice being well-defined.

I thought about the resemblance to Austen, of course.  I also thought about the plight of those excellent women, and pitied them deeply.  The ending brought me up short, and I realized that I had thought all along that it would end (I'm trying not to spoil anything here) with a more fairy-tale ending.  Instead, Pym made the ending quite real.

Well, to be quite honest, the first thing that comes to mind is  how much I needed a cup a tea while reading this.  Mildred makes a lot of tea throughout this book and it always made me crave a cuppa.

I didn't have any deep feelings while reading this book.  It was just an enjoyable read through and through.

"I did not then know to the extent I do now that practically anything may be the business of an unattached woman with no troubles of her own, who takes a kindly interest in those of her friends."

" 'Esther Clovis is certainly a very capable person.' he said doubtfully.  'An excellent woman altogether.'
'You would consider marrying an excellent woman? I asked in amazement. 'But they are not for marrying.' . . . 'They are for being unmarried.' I said, 'and by that I mean a positive rather than negative state.' "


  1. I am now reading my second Barbara Pym book and it is as good as this one! Just love the ordinary way she puts a story together!