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Crampton Hodnet (Virago Modern Classics Book 175)

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Formidable Miss Doggett fills her life by giving tea parties to young academics and acting as watchdog for the morals of North Oxford. Anthea, her great niece, is in love with a dashing upper-class undergraduate with political ambitions. Of this, Miss Doggett thoroughly approves. Anthea's father, however, an Oxford don, is tired of his marriage and is carrying on in the mo Formidable Miss Doggett fills her life by giving tea parties to young academics and acting as watchdog for the morals of North Oxford. Anthea, her great niece, is in love with a dashing upper-class undergraduate with political ambitions. Of this, Miss Doggett thoroughly approves. Anthea's father, however, an Oxford don, is tired of his marriage and is carrying on in the most unseemly fashion with his student Barbara Bird - they have been spotted alone together at the British Museum! Miss Doggett isn't aware, though, that under her very own roof the lodging curate has proposed to her paid companion Miss Morrow. She wouldn't approve at all.


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Formidable Miss Doggett fills her life by giving tea parties to young academics and acting as watchdog for the morals of North Oxford. Anthea, her great niece, is in love with a dashing upper-class undergraduate with political ambitions. Of this, Miss Doggett thoroughly approves. Anthea's father, however, an Oxford don, is tired of his marriage and is carrying on in the mo Formidable Miss Doggett fills her life by giving tea parties to young academics and acting as watchdog for the morals of North Oxford. Anthea, her great niece, is in love with a dashing upper-class undergraduate with political ambitions. Of this, Miss Doggett thoroughly approves. Anthea's father, however, an Oxford don, is tired of his marriage and is carrying on in the most unseemly fashion with his student Barbara Bird - they have been spotted alone together at the British Museum! Miss Doggett isn't aware, though, that under her very own roof the lodging curate has proposed to her paid companion Miss Morrow. She wouldn't approve at all.

30 review for Crampton Hodnet (Virago Modern Classics Book 175)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melindam

    "... she, who had at one time helped and encouraged her husband with his work, had now left him to do it alone, because she feared that with HER help it might quite easily be finished before one of them died, and then where would they be? ... This book meant that he spent long hours in his study, presumably working on it. It would not be at all convenient for Mrs. Cleveland to have him hanging about the drawing-room, wanting to be amused. ... It was an excellent thing for a husband to have something "... she, who had at one time helped and encouraged her husband with his work, had now left him to do it alone, because she feared that with HER help it might quite easily be finished before one of them died, and then where would they be? ... This book meant that he spent long hours in his study, presumably working on it. It would not be at all convenient for Mrs. Cleveland to have him hanging about the drawing-room, wanting to be amused. ... It was an excellent thing for a husband to have something like research to occupy his time." Well, isn't it lovely to meet a Charlotte Lucas-Mr Collins(OK, admittedly this is stretching it a bit)-like scenario in a book written in 1939 and first published in 1985? And this is definitely not the only resemblance between Jane Austen and Barbara Pym. There is a "trademark" gentle humour/irony combined with sharp and brilliant observation both of them possess. This book is absolutely brilliant, even considering this was a first try by Barbara Pym. Very much recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fiona MacDonald

    Barbara Pym is an author that I will be devouring, hungrily and to the fullest extent whenever I can. Her prose is utterly hilarious, with a slight PG Wodehouse of the Oxford academic world thrown in as well as that sharp humour of Nancy Mitford and I adore her satirical wit which makes a mockery of the most normal things. To me she is an unearthed treasure, and I am only sorry there aren't lots more of her books, but I suppose with a talent like hers it is quantity over quality. Barbara Pym is an author that I will be devouring, hungrily and to the fullest extent whenever I can. Her prose is utterly hilarious, with a slight PG Wodehouse of the Oxford academic world thrown in as well as that sharp humour of Nancy Mitford and I adore her satirical wit which makes a mockery of the most normal things. To me she is an unearthed treasure, and I am only sorry there aren't lots more of her books, but I suppose with a talent like hers it is quantity over quality.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This was my first introduction to Barbara Pym. I had decided that I should read some of her books when I found out that she was said to be "the most underrated writer of the century". I was not dissapointed, I found her writing to be very witty, intelligent, and just all around hilarous. As someone else on the list just wrote about a book, I found myself running to the drawer for a highlighter while reading the first chapter.Unfortunately I got so wrapped up in the story that I forgot to highlig This was my first introduction to Barbara Pym. I had decided that I should read some of her books when I found out that she was said to be "the most underrated writer of the century". I was not dissapointed, I found her writing to be very witty, intelligent, and just all around hilarous. As someone else on the list just wrote about a book, I found myself running to the drawer for a highlighter while reading the first chapter.Unfortunately I got so wrapped up in the story that I forgot to highlight many great little bits I would have liked to be able to find again. Definitely will be in my reread pile. A quote from the book: "Margaret Cleveland, who had at one time helped and encouraged her husband with his work, had now left him to do it alone, because she feared that with her help it might easily be finished before one of them died, and then where would they be?" This novle was published posthumously, and now having read two more of her books, I find this one to be a little bit more cohesive and flowing than the others, maybe because of a more modern editor.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hana

    Yes, I know! I'm back in England again; this time up at Oxford for a comic romp through a particularly eventful Trinity term and long vac. "There is something very disturbing about the spring in Oxford." Indeed there is, and it is enough to give all sorts of normally staid souls some very odd notions. More than one unsuitable attachment is formed and an assortment of busybodies and gossips do their best make the most of it all. The moral of the story is that one really mustn't make a drama of th Yes, I know! I'm back in England again; this time up at Oxford for a comic romp through a particularly eventful Trinity term and long vac. "There is something very disturbing about the spring in Oxford." Indeed there is, and it is enough to give all sorts of normally staid souls some very odd notions. More than one unsuitable attachment is formed and an assortment of busybodies and gossips do their best make the most of it all. The moral of the story is that one really mustn't make a drama of things--and one ought to be sure to have walnut cake on hand for tea. This is the first Barbara Pym I've read. The forward by Hazel Holt explains how and why this manuscript, written in 1939, was laid aside and only published in 1985. As Holt says: "It is more purely funny than any of her later novels. So far, everyone who has read the manuscript has laughed out loud--even in the Bodleian Library." I did not read this in the Bodleian (alas!), but I laughed out loud quite often--it's cutting satire and very amusing. I can't imagine living in the kind of claustrophobic, gossip-filled town she describes, but much as I would hate living in that time and place, I enjoyed my visit.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    “There are no sick people in North Oxford. They are either dead or alive. It’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference, that’s all,’ explained Miss Morrow.” Witty and intelligent writing if a little hard to get into initially. A nice way to while away a cold Saturday afternoon. two stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jaya Gulhaugen

    Sickeningly, this is my third attempt to write a review of this book. I just have to tell myself that I get more and more computer literate every time I persevere. So here I go again: The other day I was casting about for strong openings to books and I looked at Crampton Hodnet, which I had read ages ago. This is how it starts: “It was a wet Sunday afternoon in North Oxford at the beginning of October. The laurel bushes which bordered the path leading to Leamington Lodge, Banbury Road, were drip Sickeningly, this is my third attempt to write a review of this book. I just have to tell myself that I get more and more computer literate every time I persevere. So here I go again: The other day I was casting about for strong openings to books and I looked at Crampton Hodnet, which I had read ages ago. This is how it starts: “It was a wet Sunday afternoon in North Oxford at the beginning of October. The laurel bushes which bordered the path leading to Leamington Lodge, Banbury Road, were dripping with rain. A few sodden chrysanthemums, dahlias and zinnias drooped in the flower-beds on the lawn.” As before, I was immediately smitten. What do I love about this book? The “God is in the details” little things – good, hot tea, a new frock in a feel-good color, a train ride to London. I’m amazed that I can identify with three of the female characters. Miss Morrow doesn’t expect a lot, but she won’t settle for a marriage based just on respect or admiration. You pretty much know she won’t ever marry. Barbara Bird, well, she’s the female lead of Chesil Beach, but from a woman’s perspective. How many times have you felt that infatuation is a whole lot more intense in the abstract? And finally Mrs. Cleveland: I hope that anyone whose husband is going through a mid-life crisis will read this book and learn from her. Me too, but I have a pretty strong feeling that this will not be a problem in our marriage. Of course I hope I won’t turn into Miss Doggett, but maybe we all do, at a certain age. Lessons from this book? Relax, nobody expects you to do anything special, so just do what you want to. What I want to do is read or reread all of Barbara Pym and go to the next annual meeting of the Barbara Pym Society meeting in Cambridge, Mass., in March. Chris will probably even come with me, even though he has no interest in Barbara Pym. That’s just how he is.

  7. 5 out of 5

    QNPoohBear

    The quiet village of North Oxford is populated by widows and spinsters and is close to the University where there are dons and co-eds a plenty to give the old gossips something to talk about. Miss Doggett, the aunt of one such don, is the village's moral police. She keeps strict tabs on her companion, Miss Morrow, a woman of a certain age. When the new curate comes to stay, Miss Doggett naturally assumes that Miss Morrow, plain and boring, will not be a threat to the young man. Miss Morrow finds The quiet village of North Oxford is populated by widows and spinsters and is close to the University where there are dons and co-eds a plenty to give the old gossips something to talk about. Miss Doggett, the aunt of one such don, is the village's moral police. She keeps strict tabs on her companion, Miss Morrow, a woman of a certain age. When the new curate comes to stay, Miss Doggett naturally assumes that Miss Morrow, plain and boring, will not be a threat to the young man. Miss Morrow finds she enjoys his company but why would a man ever think twice about her? Romance is for young and pretty girls like Anthea Cleveland, Miss Dogget's great niece. Anthea's father, an aging don, thinks romance may be for him as well. It all plays out in the village, the British Museum in London, tea rooms and trains. This is a very BBCish sort of story. Fans of Cranford or BBC period dramas will probably enjoy this one. The story took a long time to get into. Too many characters were introduced in the first chapter and most of them didn't reappear for a very long time, if at all. The plot picks up about halfway through and then I had to see how it all turned out. It is funny in places, especially in one scene that is reminiscent of Mr. Darcy's proposal to Elizabeth, but it's very bittersweet. Characters reflect on morality and mortality; some have their hearts broken while others discover their true place. Some of the attitudes expressed in the story are very dated. Some of the older characters behave like it's still 1900 and expect everyone else to live up to the same strict moral code. Miss Doggett is on the lookout for an advantageous match for her great-niece and Miss Morrow is rather Fanny Price-ish. She has a bit more spunk in her that comes out once in awhile and I liked her witty banter with the curate. Older characters have a lax attitude towards adultery, some are prepared to wink at it, while some propose to ignore it. The one thing I was mostly bothered by was a scene where a young lady is kissed by a young gentlemen she's only just met! That wasn't even the first time it happened and not one character had a problem with it. Also, an middle-aged don falls in love with a student and the age difference isn't the problem. I didn't find any of the characters completely likeable. I found Miss Doggett incredibly nosy, selfish and domineering but she wasn't half as bad as old Mrs. Killigrew and her son who spy on people and use what they learn to fuel the gossip hotline and stick their noses in where they don't belong. They are very nasty, unpleasant people. I had some sympathy for Miss Morrow. She is somewhat likeable, especially in the middle of the novel. She has a sense of humor which I liked. Anthea is likeable enough for a young woman absorbed in her own affairs. The other young woman appearing in the story, Barbara Bird, is a bizarre nitwit. She may be intelligent but she lacks common sense. This book was never published in the author's lifetime and the introductory blurb on the dust jacket indicates she was just honing her skills. I may give a later novel a chance and see if I like it more than this one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Geevee

    This is a delight. 1930s middle-England where strict social codes abound revolving around university, church and ladies who do flowers, fetes and funerals. The characters are funny, staid and drawn well. Barbara Pym has a high eye for the absurd as well as the things that matter to people...or should be seen to. Crampton Hodnet is sublime situational comedy, but also a lense on an England past.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    I need more stars for a few of my other VERY favourite books. But how can I not give this one all of the available stars? I think I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading. Delightful characters, dialogue, and plot.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Roger Pettit

    'Crampton Hodnet' is another of Barbara Pym's gems. It chronicles the quiet, dull and uneventful lives of academics, students and a range of other - mostly unmarried - adults in North Oxford. Pym began to write it in the late 1930s. She set it aside after finishing it in 1940. It was published - posthumously (Pym died in 1980) - in 1985, by which time the author's reputation as a writer of endearing, comedic and poignant fiction was secure. Hazel Holt, who edited the novel for publication, says 'Crampton Hodnet' is another of Barbara Pym's gems. It chronicles the quiet, dull and uneventful lives of academics, students and a range of other - mostly unmarried - adults in North Oxford. Pym began to write it in the late 1930s. She set it aside after finishing it in 1940. It was published - posthumously (Pym died in 1980) - in 1985, by which time the author's reputation as a writer of endearing, comedic and poignant fiction was secure. Hazel Holt, who edited the novel for publication, says in a foreword to the story that the manuscript contained elements of over-writing, over-emphasis and repetition. None of those faults is present in the published version of the novel, which is almost as good as Pym's very best work. The plot is the least important feature of any Barbara Pym story, so I shan't dwell on that of 'Crampton Hodnet'. Suffice it to say that there are three separate love-affairs and that, as is usual with Pym, very little happens. But the things that make this wonderful writer's stories so beguiling - expert characterisation, a succinct and very readable prose-style and a mordant wit - are very much in evidence. The message seems to be that love and passion are often more trouble than they are worth and that a quiet, romantically unfulfilled life is often the more sensible option. That is perhaps a somewhat unsettling philosophy but one that is at least worth thinking about in our modern, frenzied, sometimes brutal world. Barbara Pym's work may seem superficially old-fashioned. But like all great novelists her themes resonate and are timeless. 'Crampton Hodnet' is a wonderful read. 9/10.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Loes Dissel

    Another delightful comedy of English life. I've become a great fan of Barbara Pym. Another delightful comedy of English life. I've become a great fan of Barbara Pym.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kwoomac

    The story was promising but not exactly what I was hoping for. The book title comes from a situation where the curate of the village North Oxford must explain to the vicar's wife why he missed evensong. While he had in fact been wandering the countryside with his friend Miss Morrow, he decided to tell Mrs. Wardell that he was visiting a sick friend in Crampton Hodnet (a village Miss Morrow believes he made up on the spot). I thought the village name was perfect. So proper, nothing untoward could The story was promising but not exactly what I was hoping for. The book title comes from a situation where the curate of the village North Oxford must explain to the vicar's wife why he missed evensong. While he had in fact been wandering the countryside with his friend Miss Morrow, he decided to tell Mrs. Wardell that he was visiting a sick friend in Crampton Hodnet (a village Miss Morrow believes he made up on the spot). I thought the village name was perfect. So proper, nothing untoward could happen in Crampton Hodnet. Quite happy with this development, I thought we were going to be exposed to a "Bunbury" situation where Crampton Hodnet is used frequently to get the curate out of a jam. No such luck. This is the only time the village is mentioned. Odd then that it is the title of the book. The story takes place in and around the village of North Oxford. The Cleveland family make up three of the main characters. Mr. Cleveland is a middle-aged college professor who thinks he's in love with one of his students. Mrs. Cleveland spends all her energy running the household and enjoys her husband's lack of attention. Daughter Anthea is 20 and regularly falls in love with one of this year's crop of new students at the local college. The Clevelands are a silly upper class family who are unsure how to find happiness, or realize they have found it, as they stumble through their lives. As with any small town, everyone is involved in everyone else's business and the highlight of many a resident's day is to be the one to expose the latest scandal. Pym did a great job creating the many characters who make up the village of North Oxford. In addition to the whole Cleveland storyline, we also follow the new curate, Mr. Latimer, who takes up residence with the elderly and forceful Miss Dogett (Cleveland's aunt) and her thirty-something-year-old companion Miss Morrow. There are hints of a scandal in Mr. Latimer's past but no details. While most of the women of the village swoon at the sight of the handsome young curate, Miss Morrow is impervious to his charms. They strike up a very nice friendship. Mr. Latimer is the only one who treats her as an equal, while the rest if the village see her as just another of Miss Dogett's appendages. I was really hoping for more from this relationship as I enjoyed the scenes involving these two. (view spoiler)[After Latimer bumbles his way through a half-hearted marriage proposal, which Miss Morrow declines, the relationship peters out. I wasn't exactly looking for a Mr. Darcy/ Elizabeth Bennett type resolution. Just more of their interesting back and forth conversations, filled with innuendo going over the other villagers' heads. I really wanted Miss Morrow to have something that was just hers. Together they seemed better than the smallness of the village. So when Mr. Latimer comes home from his holiday in love with a 19-year-old girl, I was disappointed. Disappointed in him, yes, but more disappointed in Pym for wrapping things up a little too neatly. (hide spoiler)] . I wanted a little more farce but was happy enough with this gentle comedy of manners. More Pym please.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Veronique

    3.5 When I bought this novel, the bookshop seller at the till couldn't help commenting that this was a good book, and it sure was. Crampton Hodnet is a comedy of manners set in Oxford in the 1930s, and focuses on romance, or rather unsuitable attachments. We have the typical university don falling for one of his students, while his wife is oblivious to all; the daughter courted by many students before settling on a supposedly promising young man; and the single, good looking, curate who while bat 3.5 When I bought this novel, the bookshop seller at the till couldn't help commenting that this was a good book, and it sure was. Crampton Hodnet is a comedy of manners set in Oxford in the 1930s, and focuses on romance, or rather unsuitable attachments. We have the typical university don falling for one of his students, while his wife is oblivious to all; the daughter courted by many students before settling on a supposedly promising young man; and the single, good looking, curate who while battling female interest convinces himself a plain lady's companion would make him the perfect wife. Crowning over all this is of course the older medling spinster by excellence, concerned only with scandal and village gossip, and controlling all around her. If these sound familiar, it's because they are to a certain extent but Pym portrays them in such a way that delights and entertains. The plot is not the most important element but rather its treatment, full of witty dialogue and comical scenes. "Are there no sick people I ought to visit?” "There are no sick people in North Oxford. They are either dead or alive. It’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference, that’s all” "I think Mr Latimer is highly strung", ventured Miss Morrow. "Yes, he is like a finely tuned instrument", agreed Miss Doggett. My favourite character was Miss Morrow, paid companion to Miss Doggett. She is invisible to most people, and yet she is the one who sees and understands more than what people give her credit. She is sharp, sensible, likeable, and perhaps the only content character. Observing all around her, she takes amusement from the often ridicule scenes, and the small pleasures in life, while knowing exactly what she wants. 

  14. 4 out of 5

    Camelia Rose

    Barbara Pym is undoubtedly the Jane Austen of 20th century. Crampton Hornet was the writer's first finished novel but only published posthumously. Very comic, very English. A lighthearted humouring of the life of middle class academics in Oxford in 1930s. The book is character-driven. Here are some of the well crafted and lively characters: A passionate young woman whose idea of perfect love is platonic and includes a lot of poetry reading A 50 something professor in his mid-life crisis A 35 years' Barbara Pym is undoubtedly the Jane Austen of 20th century. Crampton Hornet was the writer's first finished novel but only published posthumously. Very comic, very English. A lighthearted humouring of the life of middle class academics in Oxford in 1930s. The book is character-driven. Here are some of the well crafted and lively characters: A passionate young woman whose idea of perfect love is platonic and includes a lot of poetry reading A 50 something professor in his mid-life crisis A 35 years' old curate whose moral standard is not any higher than God's people and who recently discovers he does not want to celibate after all A formidable snobbish old widow A amiable gay (hinted) couple who always at each other's side .... Perhaps my favourite character is Miss Morrow, a small, "plain" looking 35 year's old spinster (what a dated word), a paid companion of a rich widow, kind, sharp and observant, far more intelligent than her employer knows or allows. I keep hoping she would find her Mr. Right and the passionate love she deserves. Of course, it won't be a Barbara Pym if it happens that way.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    I'd like to solve the mystery of Pym's writing: so pleasant, so easy and breezy. So readable. Hard to put down despite an utter lack of suspense. But it's hard to put my finger on what exactly makes this so. It slips away when I try to study it. Lighter than air. I guess this is my second time reading "Crampton Hodnet." I'd like to solve the mystery of Pym's writing: so pleasant, so easy and breezy. So readable. Hard to put down despite an utter lack of suspense. But it's hard to put my finger on what exactly makes this so. It slips away when I try to study it. Lighter than air. I guess this is my second time reading "Crampton Hodnet."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Terence Manleigh

    My third Pym, and I must say this one is my favourite. It's full of fun, satire, and wisdom. Not that the others weren't, but somehow this one made me laugh a bit more. It's well worth reading, and may start a life-long addiction. My third Pym, and I must say this one is my favourite. It's full of fun, satire, and wisdom. Not that the others weren't, but somehow this one made me laugh a bit more. It's well worth reading, and may start a life-long addiction.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    A farce written by Barbara Pym before others she published first, this was published posthumously based on an old manuscript copy with the author's pencilled in correcitons. Excellent women, curates, professors, beautiful young students, meddling gossips and more work together in an early rendering of the characters and sorts of characters that mark Barbara Pyms fiction. Crampton Hodnet isn't even a real place, just a last minute excuse made by a curate who inadvertently walked too long with a s A farce written by Barbara Pym before others she published first, this was published posthumously based on an old manuscript copy with the author's pencilled in correcitons. Excellent women, curates, professors, beautiful young students, meddling gossips and more work together in an early rendering of the characters and sorts of characters that mark Barbara Pyms fiction. Crampton Hodnet isn't even a real place, just a last minute excuse made by a curate who inadvertently walked too long with a spinster (later known in her books as excellent women), but comes up a number of times in reference to various incidents. If you are a Barbara Pym fan and haven't yet read this book, then it's a must read for you. I liked it, but am not as keen on the humour; I suspect that this is a book I should have listened to.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Barbara Pym is not a household name, which is unfortunate because her writing so perfectly targets household life. Eudora Welty, whose name is most certainly heard in households the world 'round, proclaimed that Pym's best works are “sheer delight”, and she's right. “Crampton Hodnet” revolves around an Oxfordshire neighborhood which includes an Oxford don and his family, his elderly aunt who lives around the corner and the aunt's 30-something paid companion, as well as many loose-end characters Barbara Pym is not a household name, which is unfortunate because her writing so perfectly targets household life. Eudora Welty, whose name is most certainly heard in households the world 'round, proclaimed that Pym's best works are “sheer delight”, and she's right. “Crampton Hodnet” revolves around an Oxfordshire neighborhood which includes an Oxford don and his family, his elderly aunt who lives around the corner and the aunt's 30-something paid companion, as well as many loose-end characters such as the Oxford undergraduates and university employees who take part in their daily lives. The elderly aunt, who meddles in her relatives' lives with the best of intentions, provides a great deal of comic relief without intent. It is the aunt's companion, Miss Morrow, who, while she is treated like a nonessential wallflower, provides the neutral base around whom the action takes place and offers the most thoughtful analysis. Those who criticize Pym the most attack her for being mundane. True, she is more likely to describe a middle-aged woman taking tea in an Oxford cafe or a romantic couple strolling by the river at sunset than to deliver thrilling, suspenseful, action-packed scenes the likes of which pepper the best-selling book market. However, Pym intertwines her tea-taking, river-strolling characters to create an irresistably humorous, often thought-provoking novel that has the reader voraciously devouring chapter after chapter. Pym's characters are “every man/woman” – these are the people you know in your every day life – and her clever omniscient narration is the instrument that plays out the inner workings of each character and deepens the plot. A product of Oxford herself, Pym is more a student of human nature than any major academic, and the mirth with which she observes the lives around her is illustrated on nearly every page of “Crampton Hodnet”. The characters often reflect on their environs and goings-on with a high degree of comedic irony that can provoke the reader to laugh out loud. Pym's close examination of her characters magnifies the mundane occurrences of everyday life into something to be savored. Often nicknamed “a 20th century Jane Austen”, Pym is relished as a writer who squeezes the most interesting aspects of life from the least interesting aspects of living. Pym was ready to publish “Crampton Hodnet” in 1939 but put it away as WWII interrupted life. She never brought it out again because after the war she felt it was too dated; however, it was fine-tuned and published by an editor friend of hers the year after she died, and thank goodness for that. Other Pym novels that I have read and recommend include “Excellent Women” and “No Fond Return of Love”. These novels are not as funny as “Crampton Hodnet” but their plots and characters are more fully developed, most likely because the author had matured as a writer by the time they were published in 1952 and 1961, respectively.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sammy

    2020 has become my year of rereading the novels of Barbara Pym, my favourite novelist - "favourite" in the sense of "speaks most to my soul", not as in "greatest" or "best"; I believe she would have appreciated the distinction. This is my revised review. "I feel there's something awkward about a silence in a tool shed..." In sleepy 1930s North Oxford, university don Francis Cleveland tiptoes delicately toward an extramarital affair with one of his students, Barbara Bird, unaware that his idea of a 2020 has become my year of rereading the novels of Barbara Pym, my favourite novelist - "favourite" in the sense of "speaks most to my soul", not as in "greatest" or "best"; I believe she would have appreciated the distinction. This is my revised review. "I feel there's something awkward about a silence in a tool shed..." In sleepy 1930s North Oxford, university don Francis Cleveland tiptoes delicately toward an extramarital affair with one of his students, Barbara Bird, unaware that his idea of a discreet affair is in fact visible to half the town. Francis' daughter Anthea falls in love with the son of a wealthy woman, to the delight of her great-aunt Miss Doggett, whose primary characteristic for a marriage is the postcode of the parents. And Miss Doggett's paid companion, the homely Miss Morrow, has a momentary romance with their lodger, the curate Mr Latimer, which is based primarily on a secret walk along the moor and a conversation in a tool shed during a storm. Crampton Hodnet is one of my favourite Barbara Pym novels. Its history is inauspicious: written when the author was in her 20s, the young Pym abandoned the novel due to the outbreak of World War II and later decided it was too dated to publish when she became a recognised author. After her death, it was dug out of the archives for publication. While the novel may have a slightly scruffy quality, this is a real joy, very funny, precise in its observations and touching in Pym's portrayals of the quietly unmarried (and the quietly married) residents of North Oxford. In her trademark ironic third-person style, Pym gives us both the inner thoughts of every character (they're all resigned to lives of comfortable dissatisfaction) and also external views from other characters that remind us so much of life is a study in point-of-view. Pym is often compared to Austen, although I don't personally find their styles all that similar, but Crampton Hodnet is perhaps the closest match - unsurprising as it was written so young, when authors are usually still betraying their influences. The arch narrative voice is as strong here as it ever would be. I'd acknowledge that this book does not have the sheer staying power of Pym's later works, so it's perhaps not the best place for newcomers. But if you've enjoyed even a couple of her books, this should delight too. Here also we have so many of the tropes of the author's canon. The lives of academics and the clergy, the experience of the women still in their 30s who have resigned themselves to never having love, the daffy young lovers and the imperious older women, the poetry quotations, and a profusion of tea and cake. (Here too we have Pym's first queer characters, in the two young art-lovers Gabriel and Michael; like all of her gay men, they are treated just like any other characters.) Great fun.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary E

    I had heard of Barbara Pym but until I read this book I knew nothing about her. She was British and lived in Oxford. She wrote this book in the 1930s, and then when WWII came, she put it away. Afterward, she thought the book "dated" and put it away permanently. After she died her estate found this book and published it. In it we really get a good picture of the University town of Oxford, in the 1930s. The characters are mostly the people who live there, some of whom work at the University. The b I had heard of Barbara Pym but until I read this book I knew nothing about her. She was British and lived in Oxford. She wrote this book in the 1930s, and then when WWII came, she put it away. Afterward, she thought the book "dated" and put it away permanently. After she died her estate found this book and published it. In it we really get a good picture of the University town of Oxford, in the 1930s. The characters are mostly the people who live there, some of whom work at the University. The book is full of British humor, very dry and mild. There are various characters who pair off, but they are wrong for each other, and some of the scrapes they get into are quite funny. She writes beautifully, and after I read this book I was spoiled - the books I read afterward seemed shoddily written. The title, Crampton Hodnet, is an allusion to the nearby village the new clergyman made up,saying he went there to visit a sick friend, when really he was walking in the woods with a woman (this is one of the unsuitable matches that never happens, although the whole town thinks they make a nice couple).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    Delightful and perfectly written comedy of manners--even better on the 2nd reading. It helped having enough years between to forget the wonderful gossipy details.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary Pagones

    I read this while experiencing intense, soul-crushing depression, yet still laughed aloud at many points, which is the greatest (not backhanded) compliment I can pay to Pym's prose. The book is so funny precisely because of the fact nothing happens at all. There is truly the most hideous proposal ever recorded (even worse than Mr. Collins's, dare I say), as well as a terrible business-like letter ending another potential engagement, so two, rather than one awful marriages are aborted. A professo I read this while experiencing intense, soul-crushing depression, yet still laughed aloud at many points, which is the greatest (not backhanded) compliment I can pay to Pym's prose. The book is so funny precisely because of the fact nothing happens at all. There is truly the most hideous proposal ever recorded (even worse than Mr. Collins's, dare I say), as well as a terrible business-like letter ending another potential engagement, so two, rather than one awful marriages are aborted. A professor convinces himself he's in love with a student, but even his wife seems more fussed at having people show up in her drawing room to warn her rather than is upset or worried about the heartbreak. As funny as the book is, there's a quiet poignancy to characters who wish to have strong emotions, but instead really feel more strongly about walnut cake and tea than sex. The relationship between Francis Cleveland and his student Barbara Bird, however, is interesting in light of contemporary morals, given its obvious power imbalance and his taunting her by calling her a cold fish when she doesn't want to be kissed. Bird seems like a prototype of someone who is genuinely and rather happily asexual (huzzah! solidarity!), which, along with Pym's gay characters in the book, suggest that she might be more in line with 21st century attitudes than those of the so-called swinging 60s she despised (which now feel hopelessly dated). Miss Morrow and Miss Doggett (along with Miss Bird) show up in Jane and Prudence in much less likeable forms.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    A fairly young cleric who declares his intentions for a comfortable, spinster companion to the rock of North Oxford society, an aging Oxford don who falls foolishly in love with a bright, pretty student in spite of the fact that he has been comfortably married to a worthy woman for many years, and his young adult daughter who is madly in love with a shallow young man, who on the surface, seems to be a perfect match - these are the characters that inhabit North Oxford in Barbara Pym's first novel A fairly young cleric who declares his intentions for a comfortable, spinster companion to the rock of North Oxford society, an aging Oxford don who falls foolishly in love with a bright, pretty student in spite of the fact that he has been comfortably married to a worthy woman for many years, and his young adult daughter who is madly in love with a shallow young man, who on the surface, seems to be a perfect match - these are the characters that inhabit North Oxford in Barbara Pym's first novel. This was my first exposure to Barbara Pym, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were great archetypes, (especially the forbidding Mrs. Doggett), and Pym wrote about the follies of love and romance almost as well as Jane Austen. Her observations of human character are just as keen and timelessly relevant as Austen's. I also loved the feeling at the end that no matter what would go wrong in the lives of the characters there was a dual sense of fresh new beginnings like that of the new school term, and a sense of solid timelessness and comfort like the university, itself.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tisha (IG: Bluestocking629)

    Oh my gosh did I ever love this book! I can't believe I have never read anything by this author before. I truly think Jane Austen would have loved this book. I noted several similarities between this and Pride and Prejudice. This was definitely a character driven novel most beautifully written. Very entertaining. Small University town 1930s England Terrific cast of characters with all different personalities and all different ages If you are a fan of Jane Austen, Miss Read, DE Stevenson and the like t Oh my gosh did I ever love this book! I can't believe I have never read anything by this author before. I truly think Jane Austen would have loved this book. I noted several similarities between this and Pride and Prejudice. This was definitely a character driven novel most beautifully written. Very entertaining. Small University town 1930s England Terrific cast of characters with all different personalities and all different ages If you are a fan of Jane Austen, Miss Read, DE Stevenson and the like then this book is for you. What are you waiting for? Go order this book!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    SarahC

    I read this quite a while ago, but I was in the mood to read it again. I think it is one of Pym's best, with such a subtle tragi-comic view of small town society. And nothing is more enjoyable than the significance of the title of the book itself. I think many of us have or need a Crampton Hodnet. I would love to watch a movie of this story. It would make a fabulous film. I recommend this to most of my friends. Perfect length for a rainy weekend read. I read this quite a while ago, but I was in the mood to read it again. I think it is one of Pym's best, with such a subtle tragi-comic view of small town society. And nothing is more enjoyable than the significance of the title of the book itself. I think many of us have or need a Crampton Hodnet. I would love to watch a movie of this story. It would make a fabulous film. I recommend this to most of my friends. Perfect length for a rainy weekend read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A pure delight! Sweet and very funny!!

  27. 5 out of 5

    ladydusk

    I read this on Kindle. I enjoy Barbara Pym and I enjoyed this book ... but even less than the usual for Pym happens in it. In many ways, the characters learn to be content with their lot, which is a great lesson in these days of always wanting more. Time marches on, and sometimes you're in the right place. You don't always need to dream of a replacement, like Crampton Hodnet. It was worth reading, I'm not disappointed to have done so, but it wasn't my favorite. It won't keep me from more Pym. I read this on Kindle. I enjoy Barbara Pym and I enjoyed this book ... but even less than the usual for Pym happens in it. In many ways, the characters learn to be content with their lot, which is a great lesson in these days of always wanting more. Time marches on, and sometimes you're in the right place. You don't always need to dream of a replacement, like Crampton Hodnet. It was worth reading, I'm not disappointed to have done so, but it wasn't my favorite. It won't keep me from more Pym.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Warning, I discuss some points of the story line in the following review. Not my favorite Pym novel, but still enjoyable and readable. My major problem with Crampton Hodnet is the character of Miss Morrow. The precursor to Pym's other spinster protagonists, Miss Morrow has a comfortable enough life in service to another. The problem is that I didn't find Miss Morrow as convincingly happy and fulfilled with her life as Pym's other heroines. She has much less independence and agency than the others Warning, I discuss some points of the story line in the following review. Not my favorite Pym novel, but still enjoyable and readable. My major problem with Crampton Hodnet is the character of Miss Morrow. The precursor to Pym's other spinster protagonists, Miss Morrow has a comfortable enough life in service to another. The problem is that I didn't find Miss Morrow as convincingly happy and fulfilled with her life as Pym's other heroines. She has much less independence and agency than the others. Not only is she the companion to an elderly crank, she's constantly reminded of her unworldly, almost childlike status as a sheltered woman. Miss Morrow privately smiles and giggles at these comments, but there isn't any evidence in the whole of the novel that she has a private life or fulfilling interests to fortify her against such slights and veiled insults. She follows her imposing female employer through her days, on call to fluff a pillow or fetch a cake and of course, to always be agreeable. To make matters worse, she's half heartedly proposed to by a young curate rooming in the dark Victorian home she shares with her employer. I felt the relationship between the curate and Miss Morrow had potential and could have been interesting. They seemed to suit each other intellectually, but Pym pretty much drops their story line once the proposal has been made and devises a predictable romantic plan for the curate, which I found unsatisfying. Pym's other spinster female characters have been completely convincing as single women with fulfilling lives who are loathe to give up their freedom for a late in life marriage. Miss Morrow, however, is not such a character. I felt sad for her, as though I understood more about her life than she did, which is fine in a novel, I just don't think it's what Pym intended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marcie

    I originally picked this book up because I read somewhere that Barbara Pym, Miss Read, and Jane Austen all wrote in the comedy of manners style. I love Jane Austen, and I like the idea of Miss Read, although her stories are generally filled with too many different characters and sugary-sweet plots to really draw me in. Barbara Pym, however, is said to use a lot more irony and absurdism than Miss Read; a quality I love about Jane Austen. I thought I'd give Barbara Pym a shot, and I wasn't disappo I originally picked this book up because I read somewhere that Barbara Pym, Miss Read, and Jane Austen all wrote in the comedy of manners style. I love Jane Austen, and I like the idea of Miss Read, although her stories are generally filled with too many different characters and sugary-sweet plots to really draw me in. Barbara Pym, however, is said to use a lot more irony and absurdism than Miss Read; a quality I love about Jane Austen. I thought I'd give Barbara Pym a shot, and I wasn't disappointed. Take the title of the book, for example. Crampton Hodnet is not the name of a character or the name of the village where the book takes place. Crampton Hodnet is actually the name of a fictional town Mr. Latimer, the new preacher, makes up so he won't get caught in a lie. Perhaps the most absurd character of all is my favorite character: Miss Morrow is a spinster who works as a lady's companion. To everyone in her circle of acquaintance, she is no one. This allows her to step back and see the people around her for who they really are. Miss Morrow often makes very wise and telling comments that people ignore because she is the one who is suggesting them. Oddly enough, the same qualities that make Miss Morrow wise also make her absurd. She's so out of the world that she usually ends up doing something or saying something that most people would find odd. The last half of the book was not as good as the first for me, but I think it was because it had less of Miss Morrow and more of another set of absurd characters. Slightly dragging plot or no, I'll definitely be checking out more of Barbara Pym.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    As in every other book I’ve read by Barbara Pym, it’s the very ordinariness and predictability of life in a small English village that takes center stage here – along with a cast of characters ranging from the eccentric and slightly peculiar to the dreary and somewhat tedious. As usual the main protagonists are women whose lives might seem rather dull until you get to know what lies beneath the surface of their seemingly trivial routines. Set in North Oxford in the thirties, the novel unfolds a As in every other book I’ve read by Barbara Pym, it’s the very ordinariness and predictability of life in a small English village that takes center stage here – along with a cast of characters ranging from the eccentric and slightly peculiar to the dreary and somewhat tedious. As usual the main protagonists are women whose lives might seem rather dull until you get to know what lies beneath the surface of their seemingly trivial routines. Set in North Oxford in the thirties, the novel unfolds amidst a round of social activities connected to the local Anglican church and the nearby University. There are jumble sales, encounters in libraries, visits to tea shops, excursions to London and all sorts of equally commonplace activities as the plot revolves around the stodgy Miss Dogget and her companion Jessie Morrow who agree to let a handsome new curate, Mr. Latimer, board with them. Rumors soon fly through the little village among the people who live there - university professors, vicars, clergymen’s wives, Oxford students, library assistants, and unmarried ladies who love to gossip. On the surface this might seem charming and quaint, but like Pym’s other novels there’s more to it than that. Her characters have a depth to them that reveals much about what makes people behave the way they do – particularly when it comes to relationships between men and women and the complicated games they play with one another in the name of “love.”

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