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In 1974, the Times Literary Supplement asked well-known authors to list “the most underrated novelist of the century.” Barbara Pym (1913-1980) was the only author named twice. Pym’s career was reborn and she was acknowledged as a major writer. Excellent Women is one of her best-known works and has an opening line comparable to that of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (to whom Pym is often compared): “ ‘Ah, you ladies! Always on the spot when there’s something happening!’ ” Mildred Lathbury is a witty, self-deprecating single woman inching past her prime in an unfashionable London neighborhood. Her quiet life of afternoon teas with the vicar and jumble sales at the church gets considerably more interesting with the arrival of some exotic new neighbors. Pym’s comparison to Jane Austen comes from her quirky characters and stylish storytelling.
posted Jun 16, 2009 at 11:30AM
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