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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
slight, but delightful
on 19 May 2012
Written in 1971, when Barbara Pym was unpublished and so primarily for the delight of her friends, this was never finished and the text was finalised after her death by Hazel Holt. You wouldn't really guess this, except that the novel is shorter and slighter than any of her other work (at least those novels I've read so far). Also the first person narrative is somewhat less developed than in other novels where Pym uses this device (we don't get quite the same pleasures of seeing the minor self-deceptions of the mind).
The novel is episodic - there's no big theme and the plot proceeds at its own pace - but the episodes are delightful. Caro Grimstone lives with her junior lecturer husband in a provincial town (maybe Bath is indicated at one point, though) and the academic question is a professional disagreement with his about-to-retire professor, a question which, if it is to be resolved, will require access to some source material belonging to an about-to-die retired missionary to whom Caro reads. Meanwhile Caro worries that her husband finds a new divorced lecturer attractive and will have an affair with her - and actually he will have an affair, but with someone else...and how will Caro respond to that....There is, then, lurking sadness and heartbreak here, alongside the laughter....
And with more liberated times, we can now see how it is for Caro to confront the woman with whom her husband has slept and the course of her thoughts on a rather wider range of life than troubles the stream of consciousness of earlier Pym first-person narrators.
This isn't quite the equal of the best Pym. But it is enormously enjoyable.