CIVIL TO STRANGERS by Barbara Pym

CIVIL TO STRANGERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Working under the assumption that the late Barbara Pym would have smiled on her effort to salvage these bits and pieces of unpublished writing from the far end of the bottom drawer, Hazel Holt, the author's literary executor, has put together this collection which includes Civil to Strangers, a short novel written by Pyro in 1936; several short stories; the transcript of a BBC radio interview from 1978; and condensations of three novels that Holt admits ""were all in a fairly raw state"" at the time of their creator's death. The result is a hodgepodge, though Pym aficionados will appreciate the chance to peruse Civil to Strangers, Pym's second complete novel featuring one of her earliest ""excellent women,"" Cassandra March-Gibbon, married to a hopelessly pompous novelist who presides over village bridge parties like Shelley at a soiree and when pressed can offer Cassandra such high compliments as: ""You know you are much more to me than just an excellent housekeeper?"" The requisite fading ladies and tender gents grace the pages of this novel as well, though rendered more as comic cartoons than the delicate cameos Pym has become famous for. Still, whether editor Holt has done Pym a favor in serving up ""reductions"" of two joyless romances set in Finland and in England during the war, and of a rather clumsily cloak-and-daggerish spy story, remains to be seen. Nor do the four stories included here show Pym at her best, though Holt does make it clear that the writer never felt comfortable with the form. Even the interview seems airless and unenlightening. All in all, then, a collection for scholars and serious enthusiasts. The uninitiated should enter the Pyro world via another route.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Dutton