Barbara Pym centenary: Civil to Strangers

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Barbara Pym centenary: Civil to Strangers

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Dec 6, 2013, 4:49pm

The last book of our Barbara Pym centenary is upon us - for those who are still reading. I am hoping to get to it next week.

Dec 7, 2013, 4:10am

I finished it last night. I can't believe Barbara could be writing it at the age of 23. She makes such fun of the married state. One of her best for insight into the gossipy village too.

Dec 7, 2013, 5:09pm

I read this back in July so will post a link to my review when a few more have checked in. Really enjoyed the variety of pieces in the collection I have it in, though!

Dec 8, 2013, 9:44am

I finished it yesterday. My review:

A marvellous collection of unpublished writings:

Civil to Strangers:
When Stephan Tilos moves into the village and falls for Catherine Marsh-Gibbons, the vaguely dissatisfied wife of a famous novelist, she takes advantage of the situation to re-kindle her husband's interest in her.

Vintage Pym. Some very funny moments and the wry observations which are Pym's trademark. Perhaps the best of the unpublished Pyms I've read this year.

Quote: He noticed that Mr. Tilos was attracted by Catherine, but he treated the whole thing as a joke, and was always teasing her about it, at the same time priding himself on being the one love of her life. This annoyed Catherine because she knew it was true.

Gervase and Flora:
Gervase Harringay goes to Finland to teach English and Flora Palfrey follows him, ostensibly to visit Miss Moberley, a friend of her father's, and pillar of the English community in Helsingfors.

The usual Pym situation of woman involved with unsatisfactory man, accompanied by wry observation of the minutiae of everyday life for a certain class is not affected by the surprising change of location.

Quote: The first two years were the worst, she reflected calmly. She could tell any young woman that. But it was really no use entering upon an unrequited passion unless you were prepared to keep it up for at least five years. Seven years was best. There was something very noble about loving a person for seven years and getting nothing in return.

Home Front Novel:
Excellent women in wartime.

So Very Secret
An attempt at a spy novel as Cassandra Swan tries to deliver secret papers left by her friend Harriet who has unaccountably disappeared from the hairdresser's.

Both very enjoyable.

Short stories:
A series of vignettes one could easily imagine being expanded into complete Pym novels.

Edited: Dec 11, 2013, 9:20am

I am half way through my new Viragp editon of Civil to Strangers and other writings (is that the edition we all have?) and I am loving it.

Dec 11, 2013, 9:17am

I've got an ancient edition, not a Virago. Hopefully they all contain the same stuff!

Edited: Dec 14, 2013, 2:30pm

I have a 1989 Plume edition of Civil to Strangers, also not a Virago. It includes all of the pieces which Ali has mentioned below. The cover art is much like the Moyer Bell editions which is what most of my Pyms are so it fits right into my shelf with her other works.

Dec 11, 2013, 1:00pm

My edition contains the pieces:

part one - Civil to strangers

part two - Finding a voice; which comprises three short unfinished novels - they have been edited by Hazel Holt so they make complete stories.
Gervase and Flora
Home front novel
so very secret
then 4 short stories
and Finding a voice: a radio talk.

Is this what all editions contain?

Dec 11, 2013, 3:52pm

Yes, that's what I've got. Still haven't made it into the paperback room to check the edition, though!

Dec 11, 2013, 6:53pm

Yes. Mine is an ebook version of the Virago edition.

Dec 14, 2013, 8:48am

Having had the busiest week in the world - two late nights at work, three late evenings out, workmen starting in my house - I have had little reading time but I just finished Civil to Strangers I loved every bit of it. Wonderful

In the radio talk Barbara Pym mentions Aldous Huxley's Crome Yellow as being the book that made her want to be a writer - does anyone know it?

Dec 14, 2013, 11:01am

11: I have it, and several other Huxleys, waiting to be read for years.... I really want to get onto them in the new year! He's an author I've meant to read for, oh, 30 years or so....... :) Maybe we could read along in 2014?

Dec 14, 2013, 11:43am

I've read it at some point in my teens ...

Dec 14, 2013, 12:19pm

#12 another readalong? tempting though :) I have added Crome Yellow to my wishlist.

Dec 14, 2013, 3:55pm

:)) Well, let's see how 2014 pans out. I am obviously very rubbish at sticking to deadlines but I can try!!