In 1977, Barbara Pym was mentioned twice by both Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil in a Times Literary Supplement survey of the most underrated writers of the century, leading to a rediscovery of her life and works that has continued to this day. Her reputation as a wry satirist has grown steadily, and she was widely celebrated in the national press in 2013, her centenary year. Just after what would have been her 100th birthday, all her books remain in print and are now glowingly received and well-loved. Following in the great English Literary footsteps of Austen and EF Benson, Barbara Pym achieves that rare thing in making the lives of the small and ordinary endearing and wryly amusing.
Barbara Pym – A Passionate Force is a fine portrait of such an intriguing woman. In this book Ann Allestree delves into Barbara Pym’s life and her works with zeal. From the acknowledged early classic Excellent Women to the universally rejected (and later resurrected) An Unsuitable Attachment, so out of kilter with the gritty social realism of the 1960s, all are held up to affectionate scrutiny. Ann Allestree draws parallels between Pym’s life (and the people she shares it with) and her novels, illuminating why she made certain choices in her fiction. This is an intimate, unexperienced portrait of the novelist, both compellingly personal yet also critically incisive.