The Parish of Comedy

Barbara Pym is being rediscovered for a second time, when it’s a lucky writer who gets discovered or remembered at all. Pym’s novels—comedies of manners—achieved solid if unspectacular sales and attracted consistently good reviews in the 1950s; she published six novels during this time. Then, despite this success, publisher after publisher refused to accept any more of her novels: the 1960s mantra of experimentation, existentialism and feminism had rendered Pym passé because she wrote about genteel people, church fetes, afternoon teas and tepid attempts at illicit romance. It was hardly the stirring stuff required for social revolution. Pym’s first rediscovery…

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