I stumbled upon Barbara Pym some time ago after reading this article A Nice Hobby, Like Knitting: Barbara Pym . I first read Excellent Women and loved it and now I moved on to An Unsuitable Attachment, Barabara Pym’s so called lost novel. It was written in 1963, but not found until after death in amongst her papers. Originally published then in 1982.
An Unsuitable Attachment is about love, what is it and how do we know, relationships, how they form with the help or hinderance of others, men and women, and social expectations and transactions. The characters are written in ways that allow you to see these quite ordinary people behaving in a variety ways with changes in circumstances and yet remaining true to their characters, much lke real people. The issues of power between men and women are written here in such a way that neither sex is demonized nor idolized. I really appreciate that!
Love and marriage are not easy, nor are they THE solution seems to the takeaway from this novel. Just as in Excellent Women, many of the characters are involved directly or indirectly with the church and yet this is not a preachy or religious book. Some of the characters reveal that they are not believers or they simply go to church as a social event or to be polite. The church is presented more as a social institution about good works, than a religous one.
The plot involves matchmaking attempts and failures, an eventual love match, hope for the future, hinted infertility, and acceptance of disappointment. It begins with an eligible bachelor moving into a not quite fashionable community in London and the vicar’s wife setting her sights on him for her sister. If you want to know more, you’ll need to read the book! Highly recommended.