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Summary

Mildred Lathbury is one of those 'excellent women' who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, 'capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life - birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather'. As such, she often gets herself embroiled in other people's lives - especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks.

One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest and most touching.

©1952 Barbara Pym (P)2011 Hachette Digital

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Philip
  • Tonbridge, United Kingdom
  • 12-01-13

Excellent novel- middling reader.

The novel itself is fine- but as an audio-book it doesn't really tick all the boxes.



Firstly it has to be pointed out that it is NOT (as described) narrated by Jonathan Keeble- he reads the introduction by Alexander Maccoll Smith- but from there on Geri Halligan (sp?) takes over.



She reads it much better than I could have done- but I'm afraid she's not really out of the top-drawer of narrators- she falls down badly on the male voices, which tend to be nasal, same-ish and lacking in the necessary charm.



I also felt that a posher, more clipped voice would have suited the middle-class post-war Pym world better- Another narrator (without turning it into a Brief Encounter parody) might have captured the 'feel' of the period better.



12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Cindy
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 22-03-12

A Whole New Pymian World to Explore

I downloaded this because I'd been meaning to read Barbara Pym for years, and wanted something frothy after a heavy bout of Dickens.

It ticked all my boxes. I love a sense of place, and especially when the place is London. A sense of time, especially the era around the world wars, and this is set in the fifties, when rationing was still in force. Everything's a bit grim, as people struggle to get their lives back on track. It also ticked the 'narrator with a sly wit' box, and the 'not too oppressively long' box.

Digging around on the internet, I discovered that Barbara Pym had six published novels, but when she sent a manuscript to her publisher in 1963 it was rejected as being 'out of step with the times'. This led her to despair until 1977, when she was nominated as the most underrated writer of the 20th century by both Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil. A novel was then accepted which was nominated for the Booker Prize that year, and more works followed to critical acclaim, some published posthumously, as she died in 1980.

Her work is popular and timeless, and some consider this her best book. Mostly about the everyday lives of very ordinary people, the wit and comic observations sparkle, and her turn of phrase often had me smiling, and occasionally laughing out loud.

I loved this book, and feel I have discovered an author whose works I will read again and again. Some have called Pym 'a modern day Jane Austen' and I think that's about right. I'm not surprised to learn that there exists a Barbara Pym Society of North America - I can quite see how her Englishness would be speak to literary anglophiles. Sadly, there are only three of Pym's novels on the Audible list, so I may have to buy paper copies of the rest.

Finally, the lady who reads this (Jonathan Keeble reads the intro) has fantastic diction - I didn't have to go back and re-listen once, which is a first.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Observational humour at its best

I loved everything about this audio book. I found it extremely witty, clever, relevant and well narrated. A total delight .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sophie
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 21-02-15

A wry and witty view of post-world-war-two Britain

Barbara Pym is apparently like Marmite - you either love or hate her. I didn't feel this strongly but enjoyed the novel immensely. I felt frustrated sometimes with the characters but not the characterisations. There is a dusting of irony in this novel which I found clever and also sometimes disturbing. This is what one would call an observational novel about a world that women couldn't imagine occupying now but which was until recently the norm for many.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Quentin
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 05-10-13

A marvellous book, and brilliantly narrated

Any additional comments?

As others have pointed out, this is narrated by Gerri Halligan, not Jonathan Keeble, and she does a really excellent job.

Barbara Pym is someone, I imagine, that you either love or don't really understand ... Her observation is brilliant, and the gentle but continuous humour flows primarily from this. I read a review which pointed out that few if any other authors manage this without making the characters themselves comedic, whereas Pym's are all completely believable.

Definitely recommended if you appreciate quiet, thoughtful, humour.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A good social history

Excellent soothing listen about nothing in particular . A more gentle time with the same passion s heartbreaks and minutiae of everyday life. Very well observed central character. A hint perhaps vicar Julian was in the closet?

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Gentle & Enjoyable

A calm, enjoyable story full of gentle smiles and mild amusement. A very pleasant listen on my way to work!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent if rather old fashioned!

What made the experience of listening to Excellent Women the most enjoyable?

It is old fashioned in an entertaining sense. Lovely to listen to the lives of ordinary folks in a bygone era.

What did you like best about this story?

The simplicity of the story. Listening to it was like soaking in a warm bubble bath; pleasantly relaxing.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Keeble – was your favourite?

Jonathan Keeble did not read Excellent Women!

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, it was too bland for strong emotions, but Barbara Pym's observations of ordinary people did make me smile often.

Any additional comments?

I recommend listening to Excellent Women.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ayo
  • London, UK
  • 07-08-16

Nice gentle read with bite

Good narration that starts out at a gentle pace, but I started to see the dry humour of a put upon excellent woman too polite to speak her mind and reluctant to say no though resentful of people's presumptuous attitude. A gentle read of a woman's observations. I might try another if it's not ridiculously expensive or find an alternative audiobook service.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Twentieth-Century Jane Austen !

Curl up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa and this audio book!! Luscious!