Book Review: Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

janeandprudenceJane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

Middle-aged Jane is the well-intentioned but far from perfect clergyman’s wife and mother. Prudence, who at 29 is teetering at the edge of spinsterhood, is an attractive, educated working girl. The two best friends share memories of their carefree days at Oxford, leisurely lunches, and gossip, but their ultimate goal is to find a suitable mate for Prudence.

Jane is the older woman in this story, married to a clergyman, who gets assigned to a country parish not far outside London. With her daughter Flora about to start university (Flora is a 2D character, with nary a speaking part, and much consigned to being in the kitchen making pots of tea for visitors). Jane is a forgetful woman, with sentences trailing off in the middle, and she’s never quite sure she’s doing what she should be doing in supporting her husband. However, she’s on the lookout for a potential husband for her much younger and more glamorous friend Prudence.

Prudence is 29, still single and always finding herself in inappropriate love affairs. She is currently pining after her much older (and very much married) boss, who ignores her potential until it’s far too late. Prudence’s friendship with Jane, and the regular visits to the parish, allows Prudence to enter in rather more appropriate love affairs.

I know people who *adore* Barbara Pym, and whilst I found it amusing, it was not in the same league as, say, a Dorothy Whipple or a D. E. Stevenson, both of whom publish similar books written and set around the same time.


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