Last year, I devoured the absolutely scrumptious Jane and Prudence for CBR6. It was like high tea–a savory sandwich, a course of strawberries, and cream, and a tart but juicy lemon dessert. [On a sidenote, I’ve definitely NOT been fantasizing about planning my next tea party. Not at all.] I’ve decided that this spring/summer needs to be dedicated to a Barbara Pym binge, because she is a delicious writer, and I need something delightful in my life–I read a lot of heavy literary fiction, and her wit brings some levity to my life.
Crampton Hodnet, while published much later than some of the other novels, is actually a precursor to Jane and Prudence. Miss Morrow and Miss Doggett are two of the primary characters in the novel, and while they play a minor role in Jane and Prudence, you sort of understand where their character arcs coincide in that novel. In Crampton Hodnet, we see Miss Morrow as a 30-something spinster, while her companion, Miss Doggett, has taken in an attractive red-haired curate. At the same time, MIss Doggett’s married nephew, who is a lecturer at the University, has become entangled with his pretty young student and a comedy of errors ensues. It’s all quite funny and gossipy and you wonder how it’s all going to sort out.
Pym is great at unravelling human folly, but she does so in a way that’s not too mean or too petty. Rather, you feel for people even as you laugh at their foolishness a bit. And I’m okay with a bit of gentle poking of fun, so long as it’s not too nasty.