Barbara Pym centenary: Jane and Prudence

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Barbara Pym centenary: Jane and Prudence

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Feb 28, 2013, 11:28 am

It's nearly time for Jane and Prudence and I am looking forward to it - because although I can't remember details I seem to remember really liking it. I have about one and a half books to read before I get to J &P - but will be reading it soon.

Edited: Feb 28, 2013, 4:35 pm

This is one I've not read so I am truly looking forward to it. I love the name and all it conjures up in my mind. Jane and Prudence..... I wonder if it is anything like I am anticipating. Oh I know there will be the mid-aged spinsters, the church duties, the gossips and the much sittings over the teapot, the Vicars, etc. But I 'feel' something more in the title.
But before I can begin it, I must needs complete a wonderful book I am reading: The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. (loving it!)
If I have the time in March, I will do a reread of Excellent Women as well for I did not reread it in February.

Mar 6, 2013, 10:11 am

I'm hoping to read Jane and Prudence with the group this month. I did skip February, because I read Excellent Women a couple years ago.

Edited: Mar 6, 2013, 7:25 pm

>3 laytonwoman3rd:: I hope you can join us Linda. I always find your views on your reads to be very open, honest and enlightening.

I began Jane and Prudence in the wee hours of the morning. No surprises so far except to find that Jane is married .... to a curate no less and she is also the mother of an 18 year old daughter. They are just settling in to their house at his new Parish. I will be taking Jane & Pru to bed with me tonight. I'm looking forward to actually getting into the story.

Mar 9, 2013, 5:16 am

I'm three quarters of the way through Jane and Prudence - which is another re-read for me, I had remembered really liking it. Now though, I am loving it. There is something about the world of Barbara Pym which makes me want to actually move there.

Mar 9, 2013, 1:21 pm

5: I know Ali, but all that having to eat shape and organise jumble sales could become tiresome!

Edited: Mar 9, 2013, 2:21 pm

>6 Soupdragon::
But not to Excellent Women Dee. ;-)

I am nearing the half-way mark. Prudence is meeting her 'gentleman' friend in London now for lunches, dinners, outings and such. I am enjoying this one a great deal. Most of the women are cracking me up although to this point I am finding Jane to be a rather flat character. The one I really want to know more about is the daughter but I fear I shan't as she is to young to meet our dear Barbara's criteria for much of a storyline. And I find that I am very curious as to the argument Jane came upon on her way home from the evening of whist. Hmmm

Mar 10, 2013, 3:22 am

My review is here: I will catch up and put it on LT as well soon but I read quite a lot on our short holiday and need to post up the rest of my reviews and a piece about my holiday acquisitions on the blog first (watch this space ...).

Edited: Mar 12, 2013, 8:06 am

I devoured Jane and Prudence this weekend, and loved it. The characters and their world were so well-drawn and engaging that I really had a hard time putting the book down. I enjoyed wondering what inappropriate remark Jane would come out with next, or what village intrigue would be revealed. I liked the eccentric side of Nicholas shown by his soap animals, and the essentially comfortable marriage that he and Jane have. Some authors would have used Jane's inefficiency as a clergy wife to create strife between the couple, but I like that Pym did not go down this road. I felt I didn't really get to know Prudence very well - we see what she has in life, but not what she wants from it. Perhaps she doesn't really know herself. I'm not even sure if she wants to be married, despite going along with Jane's matchmaking attempts. The "daily women" and the various church ladies were excellent. My favourite quote:
“She had been feeling that things were pretty desperate if one found oneself talking about and almost quoting Matthew Arnold to comparative strangers, though anything was better than having to pretend you had winter and summer curtains when you had just curtains.”

Mar 11, 2013, 12:56 pm

: D I love that quote Claire - I loved Jane and Prudence - probably I appreciated it more this time of reading than when I first encountered it.

Mar 11, 2013, 7:54 pm

I finished Jane and Prudence last evening and totally agree with all of your thoughts Claire, including loving that particular quote. Other favorites throughout the book were:

" 'An anthropophagist,' declared Miss Doggett in an authoritative tone. 'He does some kind of scientific work, I believe.'
' I thought it meant a cannibal - one who ate human flesh,' said Jane in wonder."
'Well, science has made such strides,' said Miss Doggett doubtfully. 'His name is Mr. Bone.'
I tipped right over on that one, I laughed so hard.

"Oh, the strange and wonderful things that men could make women do! thought Jane."

She really was most vague & inappropriate which made this read hysterical. A very different Vicar's wife. And I believe the entire Parish thought so as well.

I quite loved this read and can't wait for the next Pym to come about.

Mar 15, 2013, 5:37 am

I enjoyed it this time more than the first time (2011) for some reason.

Did other people notice the very satisfying reference to characters from Excellent Women towards the end of Jane and Prudence - what happened after the end of that story?

Mar 15, 2013, 7:39 am

I'm finding Pym gets me laughing out loud more in J&P than in anything else of hers I've read. The whist drive just about did me in---"Is it usual to clap one's Member?"--and Prudence in her taffeta and fur cape at a church social. And then her deciding she's right out of love with Mr. Grampian because she sees him taking a pill. You think Pym is so mild and harmless at first, and then she sticks the dagger in.

Mar 15, 2013, 6:28 pm

>12 elkiedee: I, too, loved seeing the reference to those two characters from Excellent Women. At the end of the book Mildred Lathbury was working on the side, typing things up for the anthropologist, Everard Bone. I love how Pym wrapped up one book in the narrative of another book. Loved that. Does anyone know if she does that in other books. I understand that some of the characters in Jane and Prudence appear in another book.

I finished the book this morning but haven't put a review together yet. Needless to say, I loved it.

Mar 15, 2013, 7:39 pm

There was also the brief mention in Excellent Women of the Archdeacon from Some Tame Gazelle, who was a guest preacher one week at the lunchtime service. I don't know if she does this in the other books, but it is fun to see familiar characters reappearing.

Mar 16, 2013, 12:20 am

I'm pretty sure that others of the characters in Excellent Women appear in later books - a woman at that lecture springs to mind, but it's the middle of the night and I've forgotten her name ...

Mar 16, 2013, 12:31 am

I loved the references to Austen's Prudence hated being called "Miss Bates" and Jane compared her match-making to Emma Woodhouse.

Mar 16, 2013, 5:26 am

#17 yes I noticed that too : )

#14 - Judging by a comment that was put on my blog review of J& P - Jessie Morrow and Miss Dogget appear in Crampton Hodnet - which I have read a few years ago and had not picked up on the fact that at the time.

Mar 16, 2013, 10:10 am

I would love to create an eccentric annotated edition of Barbara Pym's novels. Noting that Jane's research was on the seventeenth-century poet John Cleveland, I looked him up and found these lines in his most famous poem, "The Rebel Scot":

And where's the stoic can his wrath appease,
To see his country sick of Pym's disease?

This led me to discover that Pym was John Pym, the leader of the Parliamentary opposition to Charles I until his death of stomach cancer in 1643. Cleveland, meanwhile, was on the other side, as a staunch Royalist. Suddenly, I found myself drawn away from Barbara Pym's little village into the politics of the English Civil War.

It would be amusing to create a set of annotations and present them as the work of an eccentric, myopic scholar—someone who might inhabit a Pym novel—whose unfinished life's work is an annotated edition of Barbara Pym. Or perhaps this is only the kind of odd notion that one conceives while reading Pym and taking narcotic pain medications.

Mar 16, 2013, 11:02 am

19: No! It sounds fascinating! Go write it while you are convalescing!!!!!

Mar 16, 2013, 11:17 am

Hey, don't underestimate the power of narcotics on art. It wouldn't be the first work conceived or executed under their influence. Besides, I think it sounds like an absolutely wonderful idea. Get going, Rob! (How are you feeling, anyway?)

Mar 16, 2013, 11:24 am

#19 sounds fascinating - good detective work!

Mar 17, 2013, 8:24 am

Just finished this and loved it and also the fact that she resolved the Mildred Lathbury situation from Excellent Women! What a clever writer she is - review to follow soon!

Mar 17, 2013, 12:52 pm

Ha ha on me! I went to write my review on Jane and Prudence and having finished it on the 10th, 7 or 8 whole days ago, I found that after getting past the beginning parts of the book suddenly it ran together with the other Pyms that I have read. Of course I have read a few books since but like my grandson told me when I fussed about it: "That'll larn ya!" So my next one, I am going to write right away and not read anything in between. I do recall that I laughed my way very happily through this read and I found it to be her most humorous of those I have read.

Mar 17, 2013, 2:03 pm

24: I'm like that to - I always try to review quickly or the old brain loses it and gets over-written with the books I've read since. That was one reason I started my blog - I find that actually writing a review kind of helps to fix a book in your mind (and you can always go back and check if you've actually read something!)

Mar 17, 2013, 6:51 pm

OK I finished and you can read my review HERE. In a word or two, loved it and I'm scrambling to get the rest of the books. My library has a few and five of them are available for download at Open Books so hopefully I can manage to get them all. Right now I'm thinking about the next book which is not available from my library. Amazon here I come.

Mar 19, 2013, 12:26 am

I clicky clicky!

Mar 20, 2013, 10:01 am

Mar 20, 2013, 11:28 am

You are going to enjoy it Robert. Is this your first time or a reread? I really enjoyed her humor throughout Jane and Prudence and thought it funnier than her others even.

Mar 20, 2013, 7:50 pm

This is my umpteenth re-read, but I still chortled over this:

'I like to think that some of my pupils are doing academic work,' said Miss Birkinshaw a little regretfully, for so few of them did. Dr. Grampian was some kind of an economist or historian, she believed. He wrote the kind of books that nobody could be expected to read.

Edited: Mar 22, 2013, 1:33 am

and this:

'Poor Constance was left alone a great deal,' said Miss Doggett. 'In many ways, of course, Mr. Driver is a very charming man. They say though, that men only want one thing -- that's the truth of the matter.' Miss Doggett again looked puzzled; it was if she had heard that men only wanted one thing, but had forgotten for the moment what it was.'

Mar 22, 2013, 1:40 am

I know, right? That last Miss Doggett one cracked me up too. I think I even tipped over!~!

Mar 22, 2013, 1:51 am

This time round some of the domestic scenes between Jane and Nicholas after Flora has gone to Oxford remind me of my grandmother, who I used to visit as a child. I haven't thought about her in years, but still miss her when I do.

Mar 22, 2013, 8:59 am

And I've finished "Jane and Prudence". It's still the two big set pieces that I enjoy: the visit from Canon and Mrs. Pritchard and the scene where Miss Doggett comes to consult Jane about her suspicions concerning Jessie and Fabian.

Mar 24, 2013, 2:58 am

Those are classic Pym aren't they Robert? I loved them as well.

Mar 25, 2013, 1:07 pm

I am late to the discussion as usual. This was a reread for me. #11 and15 For the first time I realized that we get to know that Everard Bone and Mildred have married. It was really just a sentence or two but I loved that it connected us back to Excellent Women. I think this feels much kinder and more fun than the other Pym books so far. It never felt urgent to me that Prudence marry or that Jane become the right kind of vicar's wife.

If anything I think it is a bit more cynical about men than some of the other books. I think I found myself thinking about Jane most, and what other things she might have done, in the way that Prudence thinks about her. Also I loved the idea that examines about how we imagine others might be lacking what we have. Jane wants to see Prudence married Prudence imagines what Jane might have been.

Mar 25, 2013, 4:02 pm

Good analysis there Maren. I hadn't thought about or caught that last bit.

Mar 25, 2013, 4:25 pm

#35: you can just picture Miss Doggett led into the kitchen by Jane with her crazy hair and there's the vicar fully aproned, stirring the plums (or whatever) all the while big tobacco leaves hang from the rafters -- what an image

Mar 26, 2013, 11:08 pm

>12 elkiedee:-16 sorry to come at this late, but I think that would be Esther Clovis! Probably the steadiest thread through the books. Though the Bones make another cameo. Just wait until you see Prudence again, too!

Mar 27, 2013, 3:18 am

> 40 yes, that's the one, thank you!

Edited: Mar 27, 2013, 5:26 am

I know I'm a bit late to the Pym party but I haven't been feeling in the right state of mind to fully appreciate her. I now have a week off work and am hoping to relax and start Jane and Prudence today.

I haven't read J & P before, but a radio serialisation of it was my introduction to Barbara Pym. I thought I was listening to a quiet, sedate story about a vicar's wife who enjoys flower arranging and then there was an absolutely wicked line about Fabian and I was hooked. I have now read about half of her novels. I, too, love the references to characters from her other books. Miss Clovis does seem to have had a presence in most of the ones I've read, one way or another!