Thursday, October 2, 2014

An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym

This was my first time out reading a novel by Barbara Pym. I chose An Unsuitable Attachment which has the distinction of being published posthumously in 1982, even though it was written in the early 1960s. An Unsuitable Attachment was rejected by publishers and began a dry spell for Pym that lasted until her next novel was published in the late 1970s.

The novel takes place in London during the early 1960s where the story revolves around a group of friends at St. Basil's parish. There is Ianthe Broome, a librarian and daughter of a canon. She is an only child who has used her inheritance to buy a home in North London where she attends church. She becomes friends with the vicar, the good looking Mark Ainger, and his wife, Sophia, who is very devoted to her cat, Faustina.

When an anthropologist, Rupert Stonebird, moves into the neighborhood, he develops feelings for Ianthe, but Sophia feels Rupert is better matched to her sister, the mod Penelope. Sophia moves into action, trying in her way to direct others' lives to ensure that Penelope and Rupert get together. Of course, Sophia's plans don't run as smoothly as she anticipates.

Meanwhile, at the library, Ianthe has a new co-worker. The new library assistant, John Challow, has never worked in a library before and has a background in acting. Even though John is five years younger than Ianthe and in a different social class, he falls in love with Ianthe. She feels an attraction to him but hesitates because people would view their relationship as scandalous.

A group of women from the parish travel to Rome with comical results. It is there that Rupert Stonebird appears which has repercussions for Penelope. Being in Italy helps Ianthe decide what she really wants.

I found this book an enjoyable read. Barbara Pym does a great job of writing about those everyday moments and how people interact with one another. She shows how misunderstandings can easily come about and how tenuous the course of true love can sometimes be. Also, the interesting and funny personalities are familiar.

In reading about An Unsuitable Attachment, others have viewed this novel as one of Pym's weaker attempts. If this is the case, I look forward to reading her other work.

I would recommend An Unsuitable Attachment, especially for those readers who enjoy Jane Austen's books.

Have you read this book or any of Barbara Pym's novels?

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