Apparently, the last novel of Pym’s I have to read was also the first novel she published in the UK. I basically have jumped around her “canon” and am now reading the first novel last. I was interested to see how her first novel would shape her career, and it’s filled with what would be considered her “trademark” in her novels.
Some Tame Gazelle focuses on Belinda and Harriet, two fifty-something sisters who live together, unmarried. Belinda has languished in love–the object of 30 years’ unrequited love is the married Archdeacon of the church. His wife Agatha is sour and prickly, and the marriage is unhappy. Meanwhile, Harriet is flirty and enjoys the attentions of younger curates, all while turning down regular marriage proposals from the Italian count who lives close by. Then, a Bishop who has been stationed in Africa returns for a furlough, and the quiet village is shaken up.
The plot is fairly simple, but the comic moments are absolutely hysterical. My favorite was when Harriet (twice) hid a girdle she was reworking when male callers came into the parlor. Rather than tucking it somewhere sensible, she hid it in their couch. Oops. Good times. While this is not my absolute favorite, I can see where Pym’s style began to take shape and understand the depths of human nature in which she was interested in exploring. If you would like to start reading Barbara Pym, this is actually not a half-bad place to start. It’s full of comic characters, scenes, and dialogue that make her a delight to read.