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April 12, 2011

How to woo a Barbara Pym heroine

I am exhausted from being constantly ridiculously overwrought, so here’s a fun diversion, totally stolen from 5 Dates for the Jane Austen Superfan (via Booksin140). How do you woo a Barbara Pym heroine? It’s no simple task, because spinsters are spinsters for having kept their standards high, and nobody is more romantic. The surefire way is to become a curate, of course, but here are five less dramatic suggestions.

1) Take her to church! High or low, mass or evensong. Going over to Rome and incense. I actually understand nothing about any of this, but that I’ve read and loved each of Barbara Pym’s books anyway is a testament to her wide appeal. At church, your heroine will encounter someone distasteful, either for being sluttish and ostentatious, or mousy and pious, and afterwards (over a nice hot drink) she will regale you with amusing stories about this woman. Someone will see the two of you in deep conversation, sparking inevitable rumours (and where there’s smoke, there’s fire!).

2) Accompany her to the jumble sale, and buy her a special piece of bric-a-brac, supporting foreign missionaries or distressed gentlewomen in the process. At the very least, you’ll get a cup of tea. And then at church in days ahead, you and she can talk about what dress the Vicar’s sister is sporting, and how she must have removed it from the jumble for her own personal use.

3) Arrive at her office (at the Society of Archaeologists) and take her out for lunch at a cafeteria. She will be slightly uncomfortable eating lunch from a tray, but she will try not to show it. She is nothing if not stoic. Listen to her talk of office politics, and who got fired for failure to make a proper cup of tea. Someone will be angry at her for having not sent around her tin of biscuits. And you will wonder how an Oxford grad with an endless capacity for quoted poetry works as an assistant in an office (however scholarly), and you’ll be pleased to liberate her from this life when you make an honest woman of her.

4) Take her to the library, and sit across the table in the reading room. Fall in love to the whispery din, to the scratch-scratch of pencils, and turn of ancient pages. In this atmosphere of restraint, emotions will become heated, and love will surely bloom.

5) Don’t say a word when you encounter the caterpillar in her cauliflower cheese. Ever-discreetly, set it aside, and proceed with your conversation.

6 thoughts on “How to woo a Barbara Pym heroine”

  1. m says:

    Loved this! (And I haven’t even read any Pym, though the longer I read your blog, the more I think I should.)

  2. judy pollard smith says:

    …you knew I’d love that one! J

  3. Katherine says:

    Goodness, i loved this! I just read The Glass of Blessings last week and I’m still on a Barbara Pym high. Definitely true about the curates, they proliferate in her novels, don’t they?

    1. Kerry says:

      You know Leah! How absolutely tiny is the whole wide world??

  4. Sarah says:

    What, pray tell, is cauliflower cheese??

    1. Kerry says:

      Good for lunch when the vicar comes. Just baked caulifower with cheese, English staple (stodgy enough). But caterpillars result when cauliflower is not thoroughly washed…

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