An Unsuitable Attachment

Front Cover
Pan Books, 2004 - 256 pages
9 Reviews

When Barbara Pym died in January 1980, this unpublished novel was found among her papers - written in 1963, at a time when her work was out of fashion. The publication after nineteen years of An Unsuitable Attachment therefore became an important literary event and a source of joy for her many fans.

Set in St Basil’s, an undistinguished North London parish, An Unsuitable Attachment is indeed full of the high comedy for which she is famed. There is Mark Ainger, the vicar, who introduces his sermons with remarks like ‘Those of you who are familiar with the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.’ His wife Sophia with her cat, ‘I feel sometimes that I can’t reach Faustina as I’ve reached other cats.’ Rupert Stonebird, anthropologist and eligible bachelor. The well-bred Ianthe Broome who works at the library and forms an unsuitable attachment with a young man there. The sharp-tongue Mervyn Cantrell, chief librarian, who complains that ‘when books have things spilt on them it is always bottled sauce or gravy of the thickest and most repellent kind rather than something utterly exquisite and delicious.’ There is also Daisy Pettigrew, the vet’s sister, another obsessional cat person, and Sister Dew who bears a strong resemblance to Sister Blatt in Excellent Women. These and many more incidental characters come under Barbara Pym’s microscope.

Phillip Larkin sums up what An Unsuitable Attachment means to Pym's legion of admirers in his fascinating introduction, saying, ‘It is richly redolent of her unique talent . . . her followers will need no further recommendation.’

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - laytonwoman3rd - LibraryThing

Although it does have some amusing moments, this is not, in my opinion, up to Barbara Pym's usual standards. There isn't a sympathetic character in it...not even one you can feel sorry for without ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - thatotter - LibraryThing

Usually I feel it's essential for a writer to have respect for his/her characters, even if they are ridiculous. But here, I feel like Pym had too almost much respect for her characters--she seemed so ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

When the Times Literary Supplement asked critics to name the most underrated authors of the past 75 years, only one was mentioned twice: Barbara Pym. Barbara Pym wrote nine novels, including An Unsuitable Attachment, Quartet in Autumn and The Sweet Dove Died. She died in 1980.

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