Barbara Pym - Less Than Angels. PDF

PDF Another very pleasurable comedy by the marvelous Pym. I hesitate to call her novels comfort reads, lest someone think I mean fluffy, sugary, Nicholas Sparksy kind of stuff. But really, they are comforting, almost soothing. It's like immersing yourself into a hot bath scented with Earl Grey, with a glass of sherry on the edge of the tub. Her characters go about their mundane business of academic squabbling (this one is set among anthropologists), heavy tea-drinking and romantic entanglements, and somehow Pym manages to make it a riveting read. She gently teases these hapless scholars and their bizarre behavior, but never resorts to cheap satire, as a lesser writer might. The characters, while flawed, are sympathetic and lovingly portrayed. Even when they think they are being mean-spirited, they are really quite adorable, as in this conversation between two struggling young anthropologists discussing another, more successful peer:

'I should have thought that one might have discerned the faintest glimmer of his genius by now.'

'Certainly his conversation isn't brilliant, perhaps even ours is a little better than his', said Digby uncertainly. 'And I thought the paper he read in the seminar last term - well - confused', he added, plunging further into disloyalty. Mark took him up eagerly on this point and they went into a rather technical discussion at the end of which they had the satisfaction of proving, at least to themselves, that Tom, far from being brilliant, was in some ways positively stupid and not always even sound.

'Almost a diffusionist', said Mark, his eyes sparkling with malice.

'Oh, come', said Digby in a shocked tone. Feeling that they had perhaps gone a little too far, he changed the subject.

Maybe this is why I find her books so comforting, that the people in them are so very human, and yet basically decent.

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