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Pickle Me This

November 9, 2009

Do we really need a cup of tea?

“Perhaps there can be too much making cups of tea, I thought, as I watched Miss Statham filling the heavy teapot. We had all had our supper, or were supposed to have had it, and were met together to discuss the arrangements for the Christmas bazaar. Did we really need a cup of tea? I even said as much to Miss Statham and she looked at me with a hurt, almost angry look. ‘Do we need tea?’ she echoed. ‘But Miss Lathbury…’ She sounded puzzled and distressed and I began to realize that my question had struck at something deep and fundamental. It was the kind of question that starts a landslide in the mind.” –from Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

I am so glad to have finally read Barbara Pym, having been thinking about doing so since I read this piece on the Barbara Pym Society way back in 2007. Though when the book began, I wasn’t sure– it seemed dated, a little too concerned with high and low churches (between which I can’t distinguish) and the sexual life of curates and vicars, and then perhaps about two chapters in, it became clear that Pym had a wicked sense of humour. And yes, her Englishness is quite delightful, for those of us who delight in English novels as we do, and that someone is putting the kettle on to boil every other page, and when the tea is too weak or too strong– the agony of it all! Throughout the book, I adored her acuity and her awareness, even when her narrator had less of the same (or did she?).

And how wonderful to know that now I’ve got a wealth of unread Pym novels before me. Better still– she is unfashionable and therefore the books will be readily available used (and I’ll purchase them as such without compunction, for as Barbara Pym is dead, she’s doesn’t need the royalties).

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