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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Review - Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

So many books to finish before tomorrow evening!!! This one Excellent Women by Barbara
Pym covers a period of time which I like very much. Not quite Victorian, not very modern, just sort of an in between period where people still seem to be wanting to step out and be different and yet holding back because their mothers did not do this/or the vicar would not have quite approved of it!

Miss. Lathbury our chief in the story does not fall into quite the category of simpering spinster. She is very eager to help of course (father being a vicar does count) and likes to see the good in everyone (I wish I had some of that characteristic) but she is sharp eyed and does know when she is being taken advantage of.

The period is one of great austerity and this comes through in the book which adds to the interest. Women have become braver, stronger and maintaining your dignity, poise and the British stiff upper lip are also part of the story. Lots of eligible bachelors around but the delicacy involved in pursuing someone/or being pursued may be very strange in the present times but it is part of the story.

I really enjoyed this book - my second by this author. 288 pages and a very enjoyable read specially for those who like this era set in England.


  1. happy new year! :)

    i haven't heard of this book. hmmm... sounds intriguing though. happy reading in 2011!

  2. great review and adding this one to TBR list.

    Have a great New Year 2011 :)

  3. This is a perhaps for me, you never know ;)

  4. If you are into watching and listening to some of the horrific family sagas presented on such television shows as Dr. Phil or Oprah, then Alison Johnson's The Eleventh Hour Can't Last Forever will appeal to you.

    What we have here is a detailed family memoir where the author unlocks the dreaded skeletons in her family closet. There is an eccentric father, who was a miser and hoarder of gold, silver, books, as well as other items. Johnson's mother was mentally ill, who prior to her illness, enjoyed life but had been stunted by an unhappy marriage. In fact, as the author states, the uneasiness of her parents' relationship and her father's unusual character traits contributed to producing three children who were not happy or well adjusted. There were also two brothers, one who was an alcoholic and the other estranged from his family, and a sister, who mismanaged her father's assets, even turning to the stars for answers to the frustrations of her life. The author appears to be the only sane one of the family, who for the most part seemed to have a happy life.

    The Eleventh Hour Can't Last Forever reads more like a work of fiction, however, as mentioned in the introduction, the story is true, nothing has been added or embellished, except some names have been changed of a few people not central to the main action and the first names of the author's daughters to afford them a degree of privacy. Johnson informs us that she wrote the family memoir in 1984-85 but delayed its publication until both her brothers died.

    The saga unfolds in Palisade, Nebraska, a tiny enclave, in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Denver and Lincoln, where Johnson was born and, and as she informs us, had a population of 799. Her father was a successful businessman, however, he was obsessed with gathering silver and gold coins and hiding them in kitchen cupboards, attics, bottom of dresser drawers, and in holes in the ground. He was convinced that the total collapse of the American economy and government was just around the corner. Perhaps, if this happened within the past few years with the meltdown of the financial institutions, we might have taken a different view of his eccentricity and economic theories. Nonetheless, it was due to this obsession that had an enormous influence on his family leading to unfortunate repercussions and a family shipwreck, where nothing was resolved happily.

    Many will no doubt question why anyone would want to air their family's dirty linen in public? To this, Johnson replies that she had suffered emotional violence at the hands of her siblings, as she was a kind of punching bag for too long and it was time she punched back, particularly that it went as far as her family believing that she was mentally ill. Perhaps, the writing of this book was in fact a cathartic exercise to finally release and cleanse herself of all of the garbage that was in her- a kind of therapeutic experience?

    All-in-all, Johnson has written a well-written memoir of a dysfunctional family and the complex workings of human relationships-far more complex than first impressions would suggest. Moreover, she displays a impressive analytic intelligence that makes this work provocative, although nonetheless, quite disturbing.

  5. This is a new to me book by a new to me author-I do like the Edwardian era in England -thanks for your great post