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Crampton Hodnet (1985)

by Barbara Pym

Other authors: Hazel Holt (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7553622,239 (3.9)1 / 160
'A wonderfully accomplished farce beginning with the . . .unsuitabe romantic entanglements of a curate and a pretty young girl, both of whom live in the same rooming house, and a starry-eyed university professor and his female student.'
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» See also 160 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
2020 has become my year of rereading the novels of Barbara Pym, my favourite novelist - "favourite" in the sense of "speaks most to my soul", not as in "greatest" or "best"; I believe she would have appreciated the distinction. This is my revised review.

"I feel there's something awkward about a silence in a tool shed..."

In sleepy 1930s North Oxford, university don Francis Cleveland tiptoes delicately toward an extramarital affair with one of his students, Barbara Bird, unaware that his idea of a discreet affair is in fact visible to half the town. Francis' daughter Anthea falls in love with the son of a wealthy woman, to the delight of her great-aunt Miss Doggett, whose primary characteristic for a marriage is the postcode of the parents. And Miss Doggett's paid companion, the homely Miss Morrow, has a momentary romance with their lodger, the curate Mr Latimer, which is based primarily on a secret walk along the moor and a conversation in a tool shed during a storm.

Crampton Hodnet is one of my favourite Barbara Pym novels. Its history is inauspicious: written when the author was in her 20s, the young Pym abandoned the novel due to the outbreak of World War II and later decided it was too dated to publish when she became a recognised author. After her death, it was dug out of the archives for publication. While the novel may have a slightly scruffy quality, this is a real joy, very funny, precise in its observations and touching in Pym's portrayals of the quietly unmarried (and the quietly married) residents of North Oxford.

In her trademark ironic third-person style, Pym gives us both the inner thoughts of every character (they're all resigned to lives of comfortable dissatisfaction) and also external views from other characters that remind us so much of life is a study in point-of-view. Pym is often compared to Austen, although I don't personally find their styles all that similar, but Crampton Hodnet is perhaps the closest match - unsurprising as it was written so young, when authors are usually still betraying their influences. The arch narrative voice is as strong here as it ever would be. I'd acknowledge that this book does not have the sheer staying power of Pym's later works, so it's perhaps not the best place for newcomers. But if you've enjoyed even a couple of her books, this should delight too.

Here also we have so many of the tropes of the author's canon. The lives of academics and the clergy, the experience of the women still in their 30s who have resigned themselves to never having love, the daffy young lovers and the imperious older women, the poetry quotations, and a profusion of tea and cake. (Here too we have Pym's first queer characters, in the two young art-lovers Gabriel and Michael; like all of her gay men, they are treated just like any other characters.)

Great fun. ( )
  therebelprince | Jun 24, 2021 |
An amusing but rarely laugh-out-loud funny story about romantic dalliances between upper class English people in a college town in the 1930's. I found the relationship between the Oxford Don and his graduate student to be a lot less amusing than the one between the curate and the lady's companion who works for his landlady. In the latter case, the very sensible woman in question responds to the curate's romantic overtures with thoughtful consideration and, when he shows that he doesn't really respect her, sarcastic wit. ( )
  wishanem | May 27, 2021 |
A total hoot from beginning to end. I need ALL the Barbara Pym in my life. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Classic British village spinsters alert!

In the vein of Excellent Women and Some Tame Gazelle, we have shrewd discerning internal monologues from our main spinster/s, and a gossipy Greek chorus of villagers who keep the three parallel love affairs running.

Near the end, one of our protagonists notes the cyclical nature of village life, how things change (people leave our lives) and yet remain the same (new people enter our lives but follow the same pattern of action). And that's exactly how I like my favourite Pym stories: hilarious situations and snippy prose, small churchy village, many potential love affairs, doddering men contemptuous and foolish of love, one wise spinster amongst younger spinsters or malicious spinsters or married women with differing marriage situations.

Someone make an AI read through these books so I can have infinite takes on this one story please. ( )
  kitzyl | Aug 3, 2020 |
This was one of the lighter, more humorous ones. Miss Morrow was the wry detached voice here, and I particularly enjoyed Francis and Barbara's 'relationship'. Very entertaining. ( )
  pgchuis | Apr 26, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Pymprimary authorall editionscalculated
Holt, HazelEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klein, KatarzynaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turle, BernardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winkler, DoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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1985 ( [1939])
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It was a wet Sunday afternoon in North Oxford at the begining of October.
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'A wonderfully accomplished farce beginning with the . . .unsuitabe romantic entanglements of a curate and a pretty young girl, both of whom live in the same rooming house, and a starry-eyed university professor and his female student.'

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VIRAGO EDITION:
Formidable Miss Doggett fills her life by giving tea parties for young academics and acting as watchdog for the morals of North Oxford. Anthea, her great-niece, is in love with a dashing undergraduate with political ambitions. Of this Miss Doggett thoroughly approves. However, Anthea's father, an Oxford don, is carrying on in the most unseemly fashion with a student - they have been spotted together at the British Museum! But the only liaison Miss Doggett isn't aware of is taking place under her very own roof: the lodger has proposed to her paid companion Miss Morrow. She wouldn't approve of that at all.
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