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Excellent Women (Penguin Classics) by…

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

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

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1,903923,598 (4)1 / 539
Title:Excellent Women (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Barbara Pym
Other authors:A. N. Wilson (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2006), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Read, Your library
Tags:Where have I been?

Work details

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1952)

Recently added bylynaia, private library, jeshakespeare, Yammie, strelka2, Narumon, tealadytoo, fileuse, jas16
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This is the first book I’ve ever read by Barbara Pym and now I’m wondering how on earth I managed to avoid her for so long. First published in 1952, Excellent Women is a comedy of manners set in contemporary London, in a community based around the local church. At its heart is Mildred Lathbury, orphaned clergyman’s daughter and self-professed spinster: one of those ‘excellent women’ who can be relied upon to keep the parish running, join in with the flower rota and man the stalls at the church fair. Mildred’s world has the stifling cosiness of a small village, where everyone knows one another’s business and gossip greases the cogs of life. But around her, the world is changing. When a young couple moves into the flat below Mildred’s, she finds herself unwillingly dragged into their vibrant, unconventional, and entirely shocking lives...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2018/03/01/excellent-women-barbara-pym/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Mar 1, 2018 |
This is the first Barbara Pym book I read. I did enjoy it and I can see why people see Jane Austen in her writing. All the characters where very enjoyable and funny in their own way.
I really identify with the character Mildred Lathbury, as being a single woman myself. Since Mildred was single and not married, it was amazing the amount of people who either want to find her husband, or thought she was in love with someone and just waiting to be asked (The Vicar is one case). I felt that since she was single and such an excellent woman that they really imposed on her, because she had the time and must not have any desires of her own.
Even today people do think some is a bit odd that you want to be single and not be married. I’m very glad at the end of the book she didn’t have Mildred married at the end, even though in my general conclusion she would eventually marry Everard Bone.
I felt that this book was very relatable to everyday life, nothing fancy or wild. Just a possible true account of some life. I did wish that she would have delved a bit in more in some of the characters, but I hear some of them pop up in other books.
( )
  lemonpop | Nov 22, 2017 |
"I always think of you as being so very balanced and sensible, such an excellent woman."
By sally tarbox on 13 November 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
After not at all enjoying my first Barbara Pym novel ("An Academic Question"), I embarked on this with some trepidation- but it's a wonderful read, light, laugh out loud funny at some points, yet revealing of truths about life.
Narrator Mildred Lathbury is a 30-something vicar's daughter, living a busy, genteel yet small life in her post-War London bedsit. Church, holidays with her spinster chum, a job helping gentlewomen in reduced circumstances... and her encounters with the people around her form Mildred's world. And while she encounters a few men and even imagines possible futures for herself, she is attuned to the negatives of marriage (even while being sadly aware of her own image as an 'excellent woman' - virtuous, practical and Christian.

Amusing moments abound: when Mildred's anthropologist neighbour leaves her husband, her colleague comfortingly observes "You will do better work without your husband. You will now be able to devote your whole life to the study of matrilineal kin-groups."
A lackluster dinner with the vicar and his unmarried sister features "a pale macaroni cheese and a dish of boiled potatoes, and I noticed a blancmange or 'shape', also of indeterminate colour, in a glass dish on the sideboard. Not enough salt, or perhaps no salt, I thought, as I ate the macaroni. And not really enough cheese."

Will be reading more Barbara Pym! ( )
  starbox | Nov 13, 2017 |
This novel is of its time but is a fantastic read and Barbara Pym is an excellent observer of character. ( )
  Tifi | Aug 10, 2017 |
Excellent Women is probably the most famous of Barbara Pym's novels. The acclaim a few years ago for this early comic novel, which was hailed by Lord David Cecil as one of 'the finest examples of high comedy during the past seventy-five years,' helped launch the rediscovery of the author's entire work. Mildred Lathbury is a clergyman's daughter and a spinster in the England of the 1950s, one44 of those 'excellent women' who tend to get involved in other people's lives -- such as those of her new neighbor, Rockingham, and the vicar next door. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest.
~~back cover

My favorite by far of all the Pym books I've read. All the characters so true to life, and the situations so ordinary, amidst endless cups of tea. Such a realistic portrayal of the monotony and small pleasures of a spinster's life. Mildred's unacknowledged -- even to herself -- of her incipient feelings for Rocky, all the while understanding how unlikely and unrealistic, yet unable to resist quiet yearnings for the marriage state: Julian, or Everard, or possibly William, but certainly Rockingham has first place in her retiring dreams.

Social satire at its best because unstated: how many excellent women leading dreary circumscribed lives: the church, a respectable but quiet job, a being invisible -- leading lonely lives and carrying on with their small duties as they felt they ought to do. Eleanor Rigby in fact:

"Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came"

A funny, practical comedy that's poignant and heartbreaking at the same time. A work of sheer genius. ( )
  Aspenhugger | Jul 4, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Pymprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ashizu, KaoriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, JessieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Halligan, GeriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houweling, DjukeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kiely, OrlaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McFarlane, DebraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porte, SabineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Alexander McCallIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Uras, ElifTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, A. N.Introductionsecondary 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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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

Legacy Library: Barbara Pym

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