Excellent Women

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Excellent Women is a novel by Barbara Pym, first published in 1952 and generally acclaimed as the funniest and most successful of her comedies of manners.

Contents

Explanation of the novel's title

The phrase "excellent women" is used ironically as a condescending reference to the kind of women who perform menial duties in the service of churches and voluntary organisations.

Plot summary

The book details the everyday life of Mildred Lathbury, a spinster in her thirties in 1950s England. Perpetually self-deprecating, but with the sharpest wit, Mildred keeps busy with near-romances (her own and those of others), church jumble sales, and of course the ubiquitous cup of tea. Mildred's life grows more exciting with the arrival of new neighbours, anthropologist Helena Napier and her handsome, dashing husband, Rocky - with whom Mildred fancies herself in love. Through the Napiers, she meets another anthropologist, Everard Bone, and it is with him that Mildred will eventually form a relationship. A sub-plot revolves around the activities of the local vicar, Julian Malory, who becomes engaged to a glamorous widow, Allegra Gray. Allegra proceeds to ease out Julian's sister, Winifred, a close friend of Mildred's. As with most of Pym's books, the plot is less important than the precise drawing of the comic characters (such as Everard's elderly mother who is obsessed with birds) and situations.

Characters

  • Mildred Lathbury
  • Helena Napier
  • Rockingham Napier
  • Julian Malory
  • Winifred Malory
  • Everard Bone
  • Allegra Gray

External links

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