Thanks to his wife's money, Adam Marsh-Gibbon leads a charmed life writing poetry and novels celebrated mostly by his fellow residents in the town of Up Callow in Shropshire, England. His lovely wife Cassandra caters to his every whim, although perhaps not as enthusiastically as five years earlier, when she first married her handsome yet difficult and unappreciative husband. Into their lives steps Mr. Stefan Tilos, the new tenant of Holmwood, a dashing Hungarian who puts the whole town in a flutter. How alarming ...
Thanks to his wife's money, Adam Marsh-Gibbon leads a charmed life writing poetry and novels celebrated mostly by his fellow residents in the town of Up Callow in Shropshire, England. His lovely wife Cassandra caters to his every whim, although perhaps not as enthusiastically as five years earlier, when she first married her handsome yet difficult and unappreciative husband. Into their lives steps Mr. Stefan Tilos, the new tenant of Holmwood, a dashing Hungarian who puts the whole town in a flutter. How alarming then, that he should become so visibly enamoured of Cassandra. Mrs. Marsh-Gibbon is certainly above reproach. Or is she? Barbara Pym wrote Civil to Strangers in 1936. It was first published posthumously in 1987, thanks to her friend and biographer Hazel Holt.
Even the most loyal Pym reader may approach this collection of still more unpublished writings with trepidation. But fans will find much to enjoy in this book, which includes one complete novel, segments of three unfinished works and four short stories. The main interest, however, is of a valedictory and biographical nature: we are reminded that Pym's less skilled early writings foreshadowed a fine career (of everything here only two stories are from the postwar period). There is a certain sadness in reading in book form the last by so intelligent and subtle a writer, whose work, especially on the immature evidence here, deepened in emotional intensity through the years; the final story in the book, Across a Crowded Room, published in the New Yorker in 1979, is both the briefest and most luminous of the writing here. Completists can take note, as editor Holt does, of all the references to works in progress in Pym's diaries, and be satisfied with the fuller picture of the writer at work that emerges from these slight but always pleasurable pieces. ``Finding a Voice,'' a radio talk Pym gave in 1978, aptly concludes this collection and seems to offer readers warm thanks and a heartfelt goodbye. (January)
The latest posthumous Pym is a collection of four early novels and four stories written from the late 1930s to the 1970s. Pym followers will recognize many of the excellent women, vicars, and curates who figure prominently in later novels. As always, she pokes gentle fun at English village life, spinsters, and handsome, artistic men with feet of pleasantly middle-class clay. Though Pym is apparently not easy with the short story format, the stories are delightful. A spy novel is surprisingly entertaining, the radio talk she gave on the BBC quite appealing. This is not Pym at her zenith, but even her second best was awfully good. For any library where she has a following. Mary K. Prokop, CEL Regional Lib., Savannah, Ga.
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Meet the Author
Barbara Pym (1913-1980) was born in Oswestry, Shropshire. She was educated at Huyton College, Liverpool, and St Hilda’s College, Oxford, where she gained an Honours Degree in English Language and Literature. During the war she served in the WRNS in Britain and Naples. From 1958-1974 she worked as an editorial secretary at the International African Institute. Her first novel, Some Tame Gazelle, was published in 1950, and was followed by Excellent Women (1952), Jane and Prudence (1953), Less than Angels (1955), A Glass of Blessings (1958) and No Fond Return of Love (1961). During the sixties and early seventies her writing suffered a partial eclipse and, discouraged, she concentrated on her work for the International African Institute, from which she retired in 1974 to live in Oxfordshire. A renaissance in her fortunes came in 1977, when both Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil chose her as one of the most underrated novelists of the century. With astonishing speed, she emerged, after sixteen years of obscurity, to almost instant fame and recognition. Quartet in Autumn was published in 1977 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The Sweet Dove Died followed in 1978, and A Few Green Leaves was published posthumously. Barbara Pym died in January, 1980. For more information, please go to: hazelholt.coffeetownpress.com.