Intelligent and comforting

a few green leaves
A Few Green Leaves

Barbara Pym

As big a fan as I am of Barbara Pym—indeed she may be my favorite author of all time—I have yet to finish all of her novels. Now that I have finished A Few Green Leaves, I think I only have one left, Civil to Strangers. And that one is only an unfinished fragment I think. Part of the reason I am so unclear on some of these points is that I have been keeping myself from knowing too much about her and her work. As if keeping myself in the dark will somehow make it seem like there are reams of her work still to discover. I really shouldn’t worry. I’ve already discovered that re-reading Pym novels is even better than reading the for the first time.

From it’s opening line, A Few Green Leaves sets the reader smack in the middle of Pym’s universe.

On the Sunday after Easter—Low Sunday, Emma believed it was called—the villagers were permitted to walk in the park and woods surrounding the manor. She had not been sure whether to come on the walk or not. It was her first weekend in the village, and she had been planning to observe the inhabitants in the time-honoured manner from behind the shadow of her curtains.

What follows is the comings and goings of village life centered around the rectory and the doctors’ surgery. Potential love interests both local and imported, flower rosters, pubs, the Church Times, The Archers, and Women’s Hour. It’s as observant as E.F. Benson but without the sting and snark.  Perhaps more so than Pym’s other novels, A Few Green Leaves is more about the journey and less about the destination.

10 thoughts on “Intelligent and comforting

  1. Karen K. January 10, 2016 / 12:15 pm

    I have read about 7 of Pym’s novels and am sorry to say they all seem to run together in my mind. I had to check my Goodreads account to see whether I’d actually read this one yet. (I had not). But I do enjoy them and just realized it’s been more than a year since I read a Barbara Pym — must rectify this soon! A Few Green Leaves is on the TBR shelf so I think that’s my top candidate.

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  2. Nan January 10, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    You put into words just why I don’t like Mapp and Lucia. ‘Sting and snark’. I’m not a fan of them in real life or literature. And i am fond of Pym. I read her very slowly so as not to be done with her books.

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  3. heavenali January 10, 2016 / 3:57 pm

    Oh I do so love Barbara Pym, I loved A Few Green Leaves both times I read it. Thank you for reminding me.

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  4. Kate W January 10, 2016 / 4:11 pm

    I haven’t read any Pym! But based on that superb cover, I clearly should.

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  5. Susan in TX January 10, 2016 / 5:26 pm

    I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t revisited Pym since the Pym reading week you co-hosted a while back, but I loved Some Tame Gazelle, so I’m guessing the reason is too many choices available on the shelves. I’m trying to rectify that by doing more reading from what I already have…we’ll see how long I last.

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  6. Travellin' Penguin January 10, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    I have never read a Pym novel and I know I should explore her. I must keep an eye out for her work.

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  7. Ruthiella January 10, 2016 / 11:24 pm

    I picked up Pym based on your recommendation. I liked Some Tame Gazelle, but I LOVED Excellent Women. It is perfection in my eyes. I haven’t read any since those two however. I have a copy of A Few Green Leaves on my shelf. I need to get back to her, so maybe I will read this title this year.

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  8. Jane Mackay January 11, 2016 / 10:14 am

    I’m a huge fan of Barbara Pym and I loved your review. On a related topic, Hazel Holt, Barbara Pym’s friend and biographer and author of the wonderful ‘Mrs Mallory’ cosy crime books died in November an event which received no acknowledgement in the British media.

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  9. lailaarch January 11, 2016 / 12:02 pm

    One of my all-time favorite authors. I’ve got this one waiting for me on my shelf in the next few months as part of the TBR Triple Dog Dare Challenge. Crampton Hodnet and Excellent Women are my favorite so far, but she is always a treat. I consider her the most pleasurable re-read candidate behind Jane Austen.

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  10. Liz Dexter January 17, 2016 / 4:52 am

    It’s been too long since I read any Pym. By which I mean a year or so. I do love her so!

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