Publication Date: 15/04/2021 ISBN: 9780008322205 Category:

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym

Paula Byrne

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 15/04/2021 ISBN: 9780008322205 Category:




‘Captures both Barbara and her writing so miraculously’ JILLY COOPER

Picked as a Book to Look Forward to in 2021 by the Guardian, The Times and the Observer

A Radio 4 Book of the Week, April 2021

Barbara Pym became beloved as one of the wittiest novelists of the late twentieth century, revealing the inner workings of domestic life so brilliantly that her friend Philip Larkin announced her the era’s own Jane Austen. But who was Barbara Pym and why was the life of this English writer – one of the greatest chroniclers of the human heart – so defined by rejection, both in her writing and in love?

Pym lived through extraordinary times. She attended Oxford in the thirties when women were the minority. She spent time in Nazi Germany, falling for a man who was close to Hitler. She made a career on the Home Front as a single working girl in London’s bedsit land. Through all of this, she wrote. Diaries, notes, letters, stories and more than a dozen novels – which as Byrne shows more often than not reflected the themes of Pym’s own experience: worlds of spinster sisters and academics in unrequited love, of powerful intimacies that pulled together seemingly humble lives.

Paula Byrne’s new biography is the first to make full use of Barbara Pym’s archive. Brimming with new extracts from Pym’s diaries, letters and novels, this book is a joyous introduction to a woman who was herself the very best of company.

Byrne brings Barbara Pym back to centre stage as one of the great English novelists: a generous, shrewdly perceptive writer and a brave woman, who only in the last years of her life was suddenly, resoundingly recognised for her genius.

Publisher Review

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE ADVENTURES OF MISS BARBARA PYM 'Barbara Pym is one of my most favourite novelists. Few other writers have given me more laughter and more pleasure. I am therefore enchanted that this biography by Paul Byrne captures both Barbara and her writing so miraculously. Best of all, it should bring hosts of new readers to enjoy her work.' Jilly Cooper 'This was the perfect lockdown treat - a biography that does more than justice to one of my favourite authors' Daisy Goodwin, author of My Last Duchess and The Fortune Hunter 'Paula Byrne has not only succeeded in writing the definitive work on Barbara Pym, she has also - with astonishing skill - pieced together a beautifully nuanced mosaic. Each shimmering piece in this marvellous construct reflects an intricate moment in the life of Pym - the writer who, Byrne argues convincingly, is the 20th century's answer to Jane Austen. This is biography at its brilliant best' Charles Spencer, author of The White Ship PRAISE FOR PAULA BYRNE'S THE REAL JANE AUSTEN 'A delightful and engrossing portrait' Sunday Times 'A perceptive and energetic guide to Austen and her surroundings ... Byrne's critical study consists of a series of beautifully written, interrelated essays ... [her] style gives fresh charms to her subject matter ... Bold, fast-moving and accessible' Daily Telegraph 'Brilliantly illuminating ... riveting. By focusing, chapter by chapter, on one thread or another of Austen's experience, Byrne allows us to grasp the richness of her inner life' Simon Callow, Guardian

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