Jane and Prudence


The more I blog and the more I read other people’s blogs the more I discover new authors I probably would never have come across if left to my own devices; for me this is the beauty of blogging. And I am confident that I can add Barbara Pym to that list, although maybe the beautiful covers would have drawn me in eventually.

Jane and Prudence follows the different and intertwining lives of the two eponymous characters. Jane is a forty-something vicar’s wife whose plans to write a book about seventeenth century poets got swept away under the carpet of life. Prudence, a single 29 year old, is Jane’s friend and ex student from Oxford, who is currently living in London lusting after her older employer. Jane is worried that her friend, who only has love affairs, will end up a spinster (at 29! That only gives me FOUR years until I’m one *sob*). To ensure this doesn’t happen Jane attempts to set Prudence up with an eligible man in her new parish and so the story begins.

When I think about it now, not a great deal actually happens in this novel; Pym describes the ups and downs of both characters lives and that’s about it. However what makes this an enjoyable read is Pym’s style and wit. She manages to capture the everyday mundane activity in such a thrilling and exciting way that you quickly become involved and wrapped up in the lives of her characters. Will Prudence stop pining for her older, married employer? Will she stop having ‘love afffairs’ and settle down with a suitable man? Will Jane ever fit the ideal of a vicar’s wife? Somehow between the madly bottling plums, soap animals and drying tobacco leaves in the kitchen, I think not. But this is what makes the novel and the characters so endearing.

As I was reading Jane and Prudence on my kindle I highlighted a few passages that really struck a chord. I find this much easier to do on the kindle as I don’t have to search for a pencil and I don’t feel as though I am desecrating my books; I’m very precious with books. The first passage I highlighted is a lovely example of Pym’s writing style and reminded me of something I do when traveling on buses or trains.

‘She enjoyed riding on the top of the bus…looking into the lighted windows of the houses they passed, hoping she might see something interesting. Mostly, however, the curtains were discreetly drawn, except occasionally in a kitchen where a man was seen filling a hot water bottle (for his invalid wife or for himself? Jane wondered) or a woman lying the breakfast ready for the morning.’

I am sure this is something we all do. You catch a glimpse of someone else’s life and your imagination runs away with you, creating a possible life for them full of mystery, joy and heartache. Or maybe it is just me? And fictional characters in books?

And the second passage just made me smile and think how different life is for women in the twenty-first century.

‘One couldn’t go on having romantic love affairs indefinitely. One had to settle down sooner or later into the comfortable spinster or the contented or bored wife.’

I shall keep this in mind as I SLOWLY move towards 29, although unlike Prudence I don’t think I will have friends attempting to fix me up for fear I’ll be a spinster at 30…maybe at 40 ha!

2 thoughts on “Jane and Prudence

  1. I have also been hearing some wonderful things about this author around the blogging world too but haven’t read anything by her myself.

    p.s. looks like we will be taking the four painful years to spinster hood together 😛

    1. Ha I seem to have gone from one extreme to the other regarding spinster hood as I’ve watched the entire series and films of Sex and the City over the holidays and they are all single well into their late 30s.

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