2013 is the centenary of Barbara Pym’s birth and Open Road Media are publishing six of her novels as ebooks, on 22nd January. Bad luck UK readers; they will only be available in the US. In order to publicise this, NetGalley sent me A Glass of Blessings for the Kindle.
As soon as I met a character called Father Thames, I knew I’d read the book before, although I remembered nothing else about it. It was first published in 1958, but it seems so out of time it might as well be 1928. The narrator, Wilmet, is married to a civil servant and has nothing to do but dress well, go out to tea and involve herself in high church matters. I find her dreary and was glad when old friend Rowena appeared. Through Wilmet we meet Sybil, her far more interesting mother-in-law, the local clergy and their devotees and the handsome and fascinating Piers, Rowena’s brother. Wilmet is presumably very nice looking, as it’s hard to understand what else men could see in her. She observes all around her, completely misreading signals from her own husband and particularly from Piers. The reader can see easily that Piers is a hopeless case for a woman hoping for a little intrigue. For me, Piers' relationship with 'rather common' Keith is the best thing in the book. This is a book in which the borrowing of someone else’s cassock is as important as a priest ‘going over to Rome’. If there’s a moral it’s that small things matter and that we should all make use of our ‘glass of blessings’ (George Herbert).
By coincidence, while I was reading the book, Mary at Mary’s Library posted about a very interesting sounding book, Felicity and Barbara Pym by Harrison Solow. Looking through my archives I found these tart remarks about Barbara Pym, posted in 2008. I know Miss Pym has many admirers, which is why I’m happy to point people at these new e-editions.