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Excellent Women (Penguin Classics) by…

Excellent Women (Penguin Classics) (original 1952; edition 2006)

by Barbara Pym, A. N. Wilson (Introduction)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,707784,164 (4.02)1 / 494
Title:Excellent Women (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Barbara Pym
Other authors:A. N. Wilson (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2006), Edition: First Edition. 1 in number line, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:English, Virago, Gender roles

Work details

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1952)

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Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
A little slow the first few chapters, but then I got caught up in the characters. I love this writer. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
A little slow the first few chapters, but then I got caught up in the characters. I love this writer. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
Surprisingly, I found it hard to put this book down even though it was the daily life of a woman who seems to think it is her job to serve everyone around her. It is not just the men that treat her badly but the women as well. Despite this, she always seems to have an understanding, if not positive view on most circumstances. Mildred is a great and very realistic character. And frankly, all the women that work at the church could have been transplanted to my church. ( )
  Lynsey2 | Jan 15, 2016 |
"Excellent" pronounced with ironic sympathy in this gentle telling of the life of a pre-liberated woman, more focused on propriety and manners than on self-expression. Always modest and humble, ever-wary of social standing, implied judgements, and potential reproaches, with little of substance to do as she tamely busies herself through to evensong, Miss Lathbury, like the notion of the "impoverished gentlewomen" she assists, is a creature of a now distant sensibility. Mild, mincing, dependable, "buttoned up", she wields the supportive teapot as others' dramas play around her. Her attention to church participation and doctrine must have already seemed archaic in the late '1940s of the setting. With a tone of angry accusation, such a tale could easily be an unappetising read. But Pym creates a likeable voice of baleful self-deprecation, that connects to us through good humour and the oft-convincing sense that others have it easy as they just get on with life, whilst one is hemmed in by doubts or by delicacy, by petty restraints and internalised strictures. A pleasant read. ( )
  eglinton | Dec 27, 2015 |
Set just after WWII, Excellent Women is centred around Mildred Lathbury, an unmarried woman in her 30s who is considered to be one of life's 'excellent women'. On the cusp of spinsterhood, her good nature and efficient ways mean that she's often asked to get in the middle of other people's problems, from the couple downstairs' marital difficulties to the latest goings on at her local church.

Although on occasion her friends pay lip service to finding her a husband, in reality no one wants or expects Mildred to get married. Everyone needs her to stay just as she is, as a solid, dependable person who will always be there to offer tea and sympathy, and who can be put upon to do the favours no one else wants to do.

Mildred was a fun character with a bit more spunk to her than her friends gave her credit for, but ultimately she is a person who needs to be needed although she doesn't like to admit it to herself.

I liked the cover - I thought the Orla Kiely design suited the Woman's Institute sort of nature of the book.

3.5 stars - a comfort reading type of book. Fun but not startling. ( )
  AlisonY | Nov 30, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Pymprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashizu, KaoriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, JessieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Halligan, GeriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houweling, DjukeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kiely, OrlaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porte, SabineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Alexander McCallIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Uras, ElifTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winkler, DoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To My Sister
First words
"Ah, you ladies! Always on the spot when there's something happening!" The voice belonged to Mr Mallet, one of our churchwardens.
"'Dear Mildred, you must learn to feel like drinking at any time. I shall make myself responsible for your education.'" (Rocky Napier to Mildred Lathbury)
I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people's business, and if she is also a clergyman's daughter then one might really say that there is no hope for her.
Let me hasten to add that I am not at all like Jane Eyre, who must have given hope to so many plain women who tell their stories in the first person, nor have I ever thought of myself as being like her.
I was helping Winifred to sort out things for the jumble sale. "Oh, I think it's DREADFUL when people send their relations to jumble sales," she said. "How CAN they do it?" She held up a tarnished silver frame from which the head and shoulders of a woman dressed in Edwardian style looked out. "And here's another, a clergyman , too." ... "It might almost be somebody we know," lamented Winifred. "Imagine if it were and one saw it lying on the stall! What a shock it would be! I really think I must take the photographs out - it's the frames people will want to buy." "I don't suppose their own relatives send them," I said comfortingly. "I expect the photographs have been in the boxroom for years and nobody knows who they are now." "Yes, I suppose that's it. But it's the idea of being unwanted, it's like sending a PERSON to a jumble sale - do you see? You feel it more as you get older, of course. Young people would only laugh and think what a silly idea."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Mildred Lathbury is one of those excellent women who are often taken for granted. She is a godsend, 'capable of dealing with most of the stock situations or even the great moments of life - birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sale, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather'. Her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, seem to be facing a marital crisis. One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred has a soft spot for young Rockingham Napier. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest and most touching.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014310487X, Paperback)

An unqualifiedly great novel from the writer most likely to be compared to Jane Austen, this is a very funny, perfectly written book that can rival any other in its ability to capture the essence of its characters on the page. Mildred Lathbury, the narrator of Pym's excellent book is a never-married woman in her 30s--which in 1950s England makes her a nearly-confirmed spinster. Hers is a pretty unexciting life, centered around her small church, and part-time job. But Mildred is far more perceptive and witty than even she seems to think, and when Helena and Rockingham Napier move into the flat below her, there seems to be a chance for her life to take a new direction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A subtle comedy about life and its complications chronicles the experiences of spinster Mildred Lathbury, who tends to become involved in other people's affairs, set in England during the 1950's.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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