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Not in United States? Choose your country's store to see books available for purchase. See if you have enough points for this item. Sign in. Her autobiography amply demonstrates this, as it traces her life from exuberant times at Oxford in the thirties, through the war when, scarred by an unhappy love affair, she joined the WRNS, to the published novelist of the fifties. It also deals with the long period when her novels were out of fashion and no one would publish them, her rediscovering in , and the triumphant success of her last few years.

A Very Private Eye , at once funny and moving, shows the variety and depth of her own story. The Sweet Dove Died.

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Barbara Pym. An Unsuitable Attachment. A Few Green Leaves. No Fond Return of Love. Quartet in Autumn. Jane and Prudence. Excellent Women.

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The Summer Before the War. Helen Simonson. Elegy for Eddie. Jacqueline Winspear. The White Cottage Mystery. Margery Allingham. Busman's Honeymoon. Dorothy L. Gaudy Night. Twelve Drummers Drumming. A Spool of Blue Thread. Anne Tyler. The Nature of the Beast. Louise Penny. A Great Reckoning. A Lesson in Secrets. Circling the Sun.

Paula McLain. The Long Way Home. In a House of Lies. Ian Rankin. Glass Houses. Children of the Revolution. Peter Robinson. Whose Body? Lord Peter Wimsey's First Case. Some Tame Gazelle. A Glass of Blessings. Summer Half. Angela Thirkell. Less Than Angels. Life After Life. Kate Atkinson. The Cruelest Month. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. How the Light Gets In. The Cuckoo's Calling. Many of her earlier books have since been reprinted, including Excellent Women and A Glass of Blessings , both perceptive psychological studies of aging women taken advantage of by others.

A posthumous novel, A Few Green Leaves , is a superb comedy of provincial village life.

A very private eye : an autobiography in diaries and letters

A Very Private Eye. Barbara Pym. From an early age Barbara Pym knew she would become a writer-even a famous one. Something wrong with his mouth I think - he can't help snurging". Although she doesn't mind snuggling with the occasional German: " Somehow I could never take a German very seriously, but they are glorious to flirt with!

I had to decide between giving my face a steam beauty bath and doing "Beowulf". I chose the former, and I think the result justified my choice".

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As entertaining as her fiction. Jun 02, Ali rated it really liked it. I have to admit that even when reading a non-fiction book I am really enjoying that there are moments I long for fiction. The fault is all mine, my mind wanders and I get, what I can only call the readers equivalent to the fidgets. So bearing that in mind, I did enjoy this autobiography in diaries and letters, but there were moments when I enjoyed it more than at others.

I do think that reading about somebody through their own words — originally not written with publication in mind, is wonderfully illuminating. My photos of Lorenzo HH lying in the punt came and I am so pleased with them — they are awfully good and like him too. I felt quite happy in the evening — I wish I could be certain that it would last.

What a perilous thing happiness is! It was around this time — just after leaving Oxford, of course that Barbara began writing. It was to be however a long time before the book was to be published — thankfully Barbara Pym never gave up. She seemed to find the idea of herself as a wren a bit ludicrous and speaks of soon being found out as an imposter. This section of the book is told through diary entries and letters from Barbara to her friends Henry and Elsie Harvey and Bob Smith.

These letters are often hilarious — and demonstrate her brilliant sense of humour and ability to poke gentle fun. The third section — entitled the novelist celebrates the years in which Barbara Pym enjoyed her best success.


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After Barbara Pym kept notebooks — in which she recorded in surprising detail her observations, ideas for novels and other day to day things. She was also still writing letters. Smell of bonfire the burning of rose prunings etc , a last hyacinth in the house, forsythia about to burst, a black and white cat on the sofa, a small fire burning in the grate, books and Sunday papers and the remains of tea. Also during these years she struck up a wonderful epistolary friendship with poet Philip Larkin. In January the Times Literary Supplement published a list of under-rated writers, chosen by other literary figures.

Both Lord David Cecil and Philip Larkin named Barbara Pym there was apparently no collusion — almost overnight Barbara found her novels to be back in vogue. Thank goodness for Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil — but so sad that this final recognition came so late in her life. Reading this autobiography during Barbara Pym reading week seemed very fitting, and I am glad I did.

I certainly feel as if I know Barbara Pym a little better, and I feel sure I would have liked her too. I thoroughly enjoyed the sections of the book that dealt with Barbara Pym at Oxford and her experiences during the war. However I did get a bit bogged down in some of the letters to her friends — despite they being so well written - there were maybe a few too many — all saying very similar things. Apologies at this point to those who hate long reviews — I know some people do — assuming you have even made it this far —how does one say what one wants to in fewer words?

View 1 comment. Nov 07, Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it. A Very Private Eye is a collection of Barbara Pym's letters and journals edited by her sister, Hilary, and her friend and literary executrix, Hazel Holt. As the spinoff from my online Trollope group called otherlit has been reading our way through Pym's novels, I've been reading my way through this collection, trying to stay at about the period in her life when the book we are reading was published. In about Pym's publishers decided that no one would buy novels like hers and despite the he A Very Private Eye is a collection of Barbara Pym's letters and journals edited by her sister, Hilary, and her friend and literary executrix, Hazel Holt.

In about Pym's publishers decided that no one would buy novels like hers and despite the help of friends in the literary world none of her books were accepted for publication between then and She tried to stay hopeful for a time and continued writing but eventually as the years went by her writing slowed and she became depressed.

She always carried a small journal with her and noted little scenes in tea shops or standing in a line for a bus or at a lecture and worked these things into her novels. She still kept notes but fewer and with not much hope that she would be writing a novel into which to weave these observations. For those of us who love her novels and find the author herself a charming and attractive woman it is heartbreaking to read of those years, her occasional mention of publishers who have returned her manuscripts, the fact that she has put away a nearly finished novel as unpublishable.

It is especially hard to read of her slowing down and writing less and less. In a world where the best seller list was composed of John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, and Robert Ludlum it was difficult to sell a subtle, sophisticated, and dryly witty novel no matter how well written.


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  6. All of this changed suddenly in January of when a Times Literary Supplement article asking famous literary figures to name the most underrated novelists of the time. Immediately publishers wanted to see her manuscripts, the BBC wanted to interview her, photographers called to make appointments to photograph her. Her next novel, Quartet in Autumn, was nominated for a Booker. Finally the worth of her work was recognized and she became well known. It was worthwhile to write again. As we read these pages of the memoir, we know that she was going to die soon and would have very little time to enjoy this resurgence.

    She shined up some novels written earlier and she wrote another novel, but didn't have time to do a second draft before she died of cancer in January The book is full of vignettes as she goes to tea with Lord David or attends church with a friend from college years.

    She says in a journal note, "I find it is pleasanter to observe these things rather than actually participate in them. Before re-reading Pym's novels one after the other I hadn't really noticed all of the humor and the satire and the occasional cynicism in her work.

    A Very Private Eye: The Diaries, Letters And Notebooks Of Barbara Pym

    We have just finished the last of her novels published before the dry years. Her darker novels are ahead of us. View all 5 comments. Autobiography of perhaps my favorite author. Dec 01, Stephanie rated it really liked it. I read all of Barbara Pym's work several years ago. Very fun, cozy reading. I was so disappointed to have finished it all, but sometimes I go back and read parts -- especially when in winter if I'm not feeling well.

    They're like comfort food. Maybe it's all those solid women in their sensible shoes and woolen jumpers.

    Very Private Eye by Pym - AbeBooks

    Anyway, I read her bio and letters once I'd finished all her fiction. She was a women just like many of those in her books -- blessedly single all her life, held a good job for whi I read all of Barbara Pym's work several years ago. She was a women just like many of those in her books -- blessedly single all her life, held a good job for which she was probably overqualified and had a tight circle of friends.

    She had some trouble getting published because her work seemed old fashioned in the 's and 70's. She's often compared to Jane Austin, but I would also compare her to Evelyn Waugh without the wicked edgy humor, though. Definitely mid-century comedies of manners with jumble sales, lots of tea, young curates and meddling neighbors. Apr 29, Paula rated it really liked it.