Excellent Women

  • by Barbara Pym
  • Narrated by Jonathan Keeble
  • 8 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Mildred Lathbury is one of those 'excellent women' who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, 'capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life - birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather'. As such, she often gets herself embroiled in other people's lives - especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks.
One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest and most touching.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent novel- middling reader.

The novel itself is fine- but as an audio-book it doesn't really tick all the boxes.



Firstly it has to be pointed out that it is NOT (as described) narrated by Jonathan Keeble- he reads the introduction by Alexander Maccoll Smith- but from there on Geri Halligan (sp?) takes over.



She reads it much better than I could have done- but I'm afraid she's not really out of the top-drawer of narrators- she falls down badly on the male voices, which tend to be nasal, same-ish and lacking in the necessary charm.



I also felt that a posher, more clipped voice would have suited the middle-class post-war Pym world better- Another narrator (without turning it into a Brief Encounter parody) might have captured the 'feel' of the period better.



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- Philip

A Whole New Pymian World to Explore

I downloaded this because I'd been meaning to read Barbara Pym for years, and wanted something frothy after a heavy bout of Dickens.

It ticked all my boxes. I love a sense of place, and especially when the place is London. A sense of time, especially the era around the world wars, and this is set in the fifties, when rationing was still in force. Everything's a bit grim, as people struggle to get their lives back on track. It also ticked the 'narrator with a sly wit' box, and the 'not too oppressively long' box.

Digging around on the internet, I discovered that Barbara Pym had six published novels, but when she sent a manuscript to her publisher in 1963 it was rejected as being 'out of step with the times'. This led her to despair until 1977, when she was nominated as the most underrated writer of the 20th century by both Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil. A novel was then accepted which was nominated for the Booker Prize that year, and more works followed to critical acclaim, some published posthumously, as she died in 1980.

Her work is popular and timeless, and some consider this her best book. Mostly about the everyday lives of very ordinary people, the wit and comic observations sparkle, and her turn of phrase often had me smiling, and occasionally laughing out loud.

I loved this book, and feel I have discovered an author whose works I will read again and again. Some have called Pym 'a modern day Jane Austen' and I think that's about right. I'm not surprised to learn that there exists a Barbara Pym Society of North America - I can quite see how her Englishness would be speak to literary anglophiles. Sadly, there are only three of Pym's novels on the Audible list, so I may have to buy paper copies of the rest.

Finally, the lady who reads this (Jonathan Keeble reads the intro) has fantastic diction - I didn't have to go back and re-listen once, which is a first.
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- Cindy

Book Details

  • Release Date: 21-07-2011
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio UK