Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Less Than Angels - A Novel by Barbara Pym - 1955


Less Than Angels- A Novel by Barbara Pym - 1955

“What would this Man? Now upward will he soar,

And little less than Angel, would be more;

Now looking downwards, just as griev'd appears

To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears.

Made for his use all creatures if he call,

Say what their use, had he the pow'rs of all?

Nature to these, without profusion kind,

The proper organs, proper pow'rs assign'd;

Each seeming want compensated of course,

Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force;

All in exact proportion to the state;

Nothing to add, and nothing to abate.”  From Essay on Man by Alexander Pope - 1733

Works by Barbara Pym I have previously read 

Some Tame Gazelle - 1950

Excellent Women - 1952

Jane and Prudence - 1953

A Glass of Blessing  - 1958

Earlier in the month I acquired four more of her novels, in Kindle Editions, for $1.95 each.  Besides Jane and Prudence, A Glass of Blessings, Less Than Angels and No Fond Return of Love.

Barbara Pym 

Born - June 13, 1913 - Oswestry, England

Died - January 11, 1980 - Oxford, England 

Barbara Pym is among the best chroniclers of a now lost, maybe lost when she was writing, world of curates, vicars and women whose lives are bound up the social world of post World War Two England, with rationing, the return of service men and endless meeting for tea. No one has children out of wedlock, of course. Many have small “private incomes”.

The more I read of the work of Barbara Pym, the deeper my appreciation becomes.  I know of no other writer who makes such brilliant usage of adverbs in describing the manner in which a characters says something, revealing much about their feelings.  The people in her novels read classic English fiction and poetry.  

In a bit of a departure from my previous reads of her works,the male characters in Less Than Angels are anthropologists   rather than clerics and vicars.  As potrayed all of the  anthropologists  work in sub-Sahara Africa.  Interstingly  anthroplogists by job requirements leave their English homes while clerics stay.  Both are involved in education, neither produce anything concrete.  The anthropologists  do seem a bit patronizing in their reports of their findings.

There are a few romances, no extreme emotions among characters as it would be “un-English”.

As I pass my 22nd Month on lock down in Metro Manila, going out only to see a doctor about a broken arm, I wondered the people in Pym’s books would deal with the pandemic, my guess is with great strength and a “stiff upper lip”

I will next read No Fond Return of Love.


Mystica said...

I'm going to Amazon to check those prices! I like Pym too.

Harvee said...

Hven't read Pym but curious about those anthropologists! Keep well and safe!

Eliza LiberAmans said...

I have read several Pym books and really love them. Crampton Hodnet is my favorite.

Buried In Print said...

The comment above, by Thomas, looks suspicious to me. I hope it's a friend of yours and not a way to get past your filter and leave sales comments on your site!

Pym is perfect for pandemic reading. And No Fond Return of Love is one of my favourites. I think it's the one that features a character who has perfected the art of making an index; as soon as I learned that was a thing, that's the job I wanted. But unfortunately, she was living in a better century to do that kind of work than I. LOL

Mel u said...

Buried in Print. You were right in about that comment. I deleted it, on Pym, I like how her people read so much