Thursday, March 1, 2018

Books I'm Thirsting to Read

Heavy,  wet snow tomorrow after a spring-like week or more--perhaps my wishes have been answered.

I've been longing to read a book by Barbara Pym for weeks now. Finally the Penguin paperback of  Excellent Women (1952) has arrived, and I'm a quarter of the way through.   The only other book I've read of Pym's is Quartet in Autumn, which delighted me last year. And I can't wait to share my thoughts about this book very soon--most particularly the characters.

Late this afternoon, I pulled out my knitting and started listening to the recently published Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. It's the story of a girl and later, a young woman, who was raised in a survivalist culture in southern Idaho, and who managed to break free of her family, who had forbidden her and her siblings any education.

For those new to the topic of "American survivalists," many members of this small minority practice extreme religious fundamentalism and shun all the trappings of modern society. Many hide from public institutions, particularly those governed by the "Feds," but also from state and local governments. Like Tara Westover's father, many believe that the U.S. government is out to destroy them. They harbor extensive arsenals of weaponry, as Tara's father did, expecting slaughter from the federal government.
But Tara Westover makes it clear from the beginning that this book not about extremists--it's really about her journey and her education and her  "becoming" in the wider world.


  1. That's such a simple cover image, but so striking! I hope you enjoy your Pym novel; Quartet in Autumn remains a favourite of mine.

    1. Quartet in Autumn is a truly great novel, to my mind. The phrase that comes to mind for me is "droll, yet profound."

  2. Quartet in Autumn was my introduction to Pym. It seems more somber in tone than her other novels, though I've enjoyed every one I've read.

    Hope to read or listen to Educated soon.

    1. JoAnn,
      I think you noted one of the most significant aspects of Pym's style--her tone.

      Quartet in Autumn was also my intro to Pym, and I was a bit baffled by what I perceived to be the somewhat diminished circumstances of the lives the characters chose to lead, although the characters themselves seemed perfectly willing to accept their lives as they were and were not anxious for change.
      I found this to be true for Mildred, the first-person narrator of Excellent Women, although there is so much depth there, supporting her choices or lack thereof.
      I find Barbara Pym to be an extraordinary writer and a keen observer of relationships between the sexes. And, I have to say, that after reading Excellent Women, she was quite a bit of what would later be called a feminist.

    2. Pym definitely showed signs of early feminism! Another thing I always appreciate is how various characters make cameo appearances in several novels. It's been a coupe of years since I last read her, but A Few Green Leaves is now waiting on my shelf. I'd also like to reread Quartet in Autumn.

    3. I'd like to reread Quartet in Autumn one day as well. And I hope to read the rest of Pym's novels, maybe one book a year for a while.