Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Glass of Blessings - Barbara Pym

In the late 1950's, Wilmet Forsyth is nearing her thirtieth birthday. She lives in a suburb of London with her husband, Rodney and her mother-in-law, Sybil. Wilmet met Rodney in Italy during WWII. Back then he was a dashing Officer in the Army and she was a young woman serving in the WREN's. In the intervening years Rodney has put on a few pounds, begun to lose his hair and his job at the Ministry keeps him busy.

An acute observer of her surroundings and particularly of the happenings in the local church, Wilmet embarks on a journey of discovery which sees her yearning after a little adventure in her life, especially as Rodney prefers her not to work she feels she must fill her time somehow. As they are proposing to take a holiday in Portugal in the summer, she and Sybil decide to take Portuguese lessons and who should be their tutor but the enigmatic Piers Longridge, the brother of Wilmet's oldest and best friend, Rowena. Soon she finds Piers occupying her thoughts a little more than perhaps is proper for a married woman.

A Glass of Blessings was published in 1958 and was the fifth of seven books written by Barbara Pym. It is the first of her books I have read and it will not be the last. Pym's observations of people and their foibles are faultless. Through Wilmet Forsyth's thoughts and comments she masterfully and without malice, paints an intricate picture of life in middle-class London in the late 1950's. Her perceptive insights into the character and expectations of the cast in the story produce an excellent essay on suburban life of the time. The language is clever and the dialogue erudite, witty and delightful. This book was an enjoyable find for me and offers the reader a journey back in time to late 1950's England. It is charming, insightful and historically accurate. There were several things described in the book that I remember my grandmother having in her house when I was a child in the late sixties.

Barbara Pym intrigued me as I had not heard of her work before so I read a little about her life after reading this book. I can easily see why in 1977 she was nominated by both David Cecil and Philip Larkin as the most underrated writer of the century.

If you like journeying back in time, this is just the book to take you on a great ride.



  1. I just LOVE Barbara Pym! I've just finished reading "Excellent Women." It's wonderful. I couldn't agree more about Pym being underrated. I will definitely read "A Glass of Blessings." This is a great post - you summed up her gifts brilliantly.

  2. Many thanks, Hannah! Barbara Pym was quite prolific during her life and I am so happy to have discovered her work. I do love recommendations and will definitely be on the look out for Excellent Women now.