Crampton Hodnet
by Barbara Pym

PymScreen shot 2013-03-01 at 3.24.23 PMStory of Miss Doggett and her companion Miss Morrow. Will Miss Morrow marry Mr. Latimer?  Will Francis Cleveland have an affair with Barbara Bird?

Opening lines: It was a wet Sunday afternoon in North Oxford at the beginning of October.  The laurel bushes which bordered the path leading to Leamington Lodge, Banbury Road, were dripping with rain.  A few sodden chrysanthemums, dahlias and zinnias drooped in the flower-beds on the lawn.  The house had been built in the sixties of the last century [i.e., the 1860’s], of yellowish brick, with a gabled roof and narrow Gothic windows set in frames of ornamental stonework.  A long red and blue stained-glass window looked onto a landing halfway up the pitch=pine staircase, and there were panels of the same glass let into the front door, giving an ecclesiastical effect, so that, except for the glimpse of unlikely lace curtains, the house might have been a theological college.  It seemed very quiet now at twenty past three, and upstairs I her big front bedroom Miss Maude Doggett was having her usual rest.  There was still half an hour before her heavy step would be heard on the stairs and her loud, firm voice calling to her companion, Miss Morrow.

Quotes from critics:   “The rarest of treasures, [Pym] reminds us of the heart-breaking silliness of daily life.”  (The New York Times Book Review); “She does for her own domain what Jane Austen, Edith Wharton and Henry James did for theirs.”  (Atlanta Journal); “Witty and dry, accurate and cozily English.” (Newsweek); “One does not laugh out loud while reading Pym; that would be too much. One smiles. One smiles and puts down the book to enjoy the smile. Then one picks it up again and a few minutes later an unexpected observation on human foibles makes one smile again. (Alexander McCall Smith, The Guardian)

Bio:  Barbara Pym (1913-1980) drew on her experiences as an editor for an anthropological magazine, her several romances, and her spinster life living with her sister.  From 1950-1963, she wrote a novel every few years, but for the following sixteen years, her novels were rejected and she lived in obscurity.  She enjoyed a comeback after the Times Literary Supplement named her “the most underrated novelist of the century.”  

Also worth reading: Jane and Prudence