, ,

In a radio talk recorded in February 1978 and transmitted on BBC Radio 3 in April, less than two years before she died, Barbara Pym described a favourite television quiz game, where panellists were asked to guess the authorship of certain passages read out to them. ‘There were no prizes for guessing, no moving belt or desirable objects passing before their eyes, just the pleasure and satisfaction of recognising the unmistakable voice of …  whoever it might be. I think that’s the kind of immortality most authors would want – to feel that their work would be immediately recognisable as having been written by them and by nobody else. But of course it’s a lot to ask for!’

It might be, but Barbara Pym’s voice is entirely and delightfully unmistakable; it’s unlike any other author, however longingly we search. There just isn’t enough of it for us readers – if only she’d written more! Blame her publishers who rejected her seventh novel An Unsuitable Attachment in 1963. Thank goodness she went on writing during the following fourteen years of rejection – though probably not as much as she might have done…

One of the joys of Barbara Pym’s novels is the way characters reappear. They are our old friends… Here in WRITINGS is a short story written as a light-hearted tribute to Barbara Pym featuring some of them:  Tread Softly in the Ladies.