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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer bliss, even the 10th time around
What a joy it is to sink into a Barbara Pym novel, especially this one, which is one of my favorites. The eye for detail, the wit, the ability to sketch a character with just a sentence or two, that this author possesses, never fail to delight. I return to her novels every couple of years, and find them to be balm for the soul.
This trip into the English...
Published on February 12, 2002 by ARG

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not equal to A Glass of Blessings
Looser than A Glass, which is very fine indeed, but instructive all the same about human nature. Jane is a vivid, unforgettable character; Prudence, less so.
Published 8 months ago by Margaret Blagg


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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer bliss, even the 10th time around, February 12, 2002
By 
ARG (Arlington, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
What a joy it is to sink into a Barbara Pym novel, especially this one, which is one of my favorites. The eye for detail, the wit, the ability to sketch a character with just a sentence or two, that this author possesses, never fail to delight. I return to her novels every couple of years, and find them to be balm for the soul.
This trip into the English countryside of 50 years ago, with its vicars, teas, and rationing, is a gentle and wondrous escape from current realities. Yet, like all great literature, its insights into human nature is timeless.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I never read anything my mother reads.", November 19, 2004
By 
Charles Slovenski (Geneva Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
"I never read anything my mother reads," said my best friend Tom when we were college students. Although that was a long time ago, I still remember his response when I offered him a copy of a Barbara Pym novel. Such is the far-reaching reputation of this very entertaining writer. However, I vouch for the fact that Pym's novels appeal to a much wider public than our mothers.

Take Jane and Prudence. Jane is a frumpy but bright vicar's wife who would, in another age and novel, enjoy a profitable career in Human Resources Management. Prudence, her close friend from schoolgirl days, is a single woman living in a modest flat in London and working in a dreary office but whose life is anything but dull. She likes fine things, makes up her face artfully and fantasizes about her married employer. Jane and her husband the vicar have recently relocated to a village vicarage where the locals are hard pressed to accept their new neighbors. Prudence comes to visit and is courted by the local Lothario who is ultimately swept up by his rich neighbor's hired companion, leaving Prudence slightly bereft and impelled to dally with her pale, lean co-worker who enjoys hiking.

That's the plot as best as I can describe it, leaving out the small but pretty byroads of church decorating parties, council meetings and office lunches.

Within this precious story is great high comedy, full of irony and wit. The office scenes are hilarious, depicting an inpenetrable hierachy that had me laughing away. The village characters are all distinct and never reduced to stock rustic characters, therefore I was fascinated. The very industrious woman who lands the local but lazy Lothario gives a firm example of "setting one's cap" to winning a mate. Pym likes to depict characters who study anthropology and it's fitting that her people in this story are quite a tribal study in themselves.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jane and Prudence is a hilarious novel of British manners., May 14, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
You need not be an Anglophile to enjoy Jane, the vicar's wife whose literary past has her quoting odd lines of seventeenth century poetry at inappropriate moments, startling her visitors and making her readers giggle. Jane's friend Prudence is all propriety and green eye shadow, but can't seem to find a suitable husband among many suitors, some more colorful than others. A brief but pleasing little novel, sharply written and finely shaped. If you're not already a Pym fan, you'll become one.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a novel of quiet complexity, December 20, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
'Jane and Prudence' is what I would call a 'universe' novel, rather than a 'things happen' one. Pym draws one into the quietly complex world of her characters. Jane is a charmingly dithery clergyman's wife, deep in her own literary world and consequently always saying and doing not quite the right thing. There is much irony in this novel, especially in the way characters relate to each other. Pym exposes the petty prejudices and selfish scheming manouvres of ordinary people. Although this is not what you'd call a nail-biter, I found 'Jane and Prudence' very engaging, and a pleasure to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, love, love Barbara pym!, October 16, 2010
This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
Jane and Prudence is the story of two friends--Jane is a middle-aged clergyman's wife, and Prudence is a spinster at the age of 29, "an age that is often rather desperate for a woman who has not yet married." When Jane and her husband move to a small parish, they meet a widower named Fabian Driver, with whom Jane wants to set Prudence up. This novel is a very quiet satire of love and romance and the constant search for them.

Jane and Prudence's friendship is an unlikely one, and it's hard to see why, exactly, they're friends (beyond the fact that they met at Oxford). In addition, I kept wondering why Jane would want to set up her good friend with someone who's a known womanizer. Still, she means well. I think the interplay between the two main characters is well done. Of the two, I think I prefer Jane with her hapless housekeeping over Prudence, who seems a bit arrogant at times. I think in a different age (say, ours), Prudence would be just anther career woman living in London (and she'd have a much better job). If she lived today, though, there would still be a focus on getting her set up with a boyfriend or husband, so not much has changed there.

I did also like Nicholas, Jane's husband, who puts up with Jane's flaws with an admirable amount of patience. There's a lot of humor in this book, but some of it is downright mean at times.

Still, Barbara Pym is at her best when she's talking about the relationships between men and women. She has some very interesting things to say about the state of being married, or not. I think the reason why Barbara Pym's novels appeal to people even today is that her themes are so wide-ranging and timeless.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How life works out, and doesn't, January 19, 2009
By 
Patricia Tryon (Longmont, CO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
Part of what leaves me gasping about Barbara Pym the perfection with which she captures how people adapt to yearning, pettiness, and disillusionment: their own and those with whom they live. Her characters behave with civility and even gentility and yet --

In so many ways, these people break faith with each other and, more lethally, with themselves. Ennui and its traveling companion, laziness, undermine good intentions. A veneer of goodwill barely conceals condescension and even scorn. And is it really gossip if, when talking about somebody, we choose our words carefully and our concern is more or less genuine?

We look at each other more clearly than we will ever be able to look at ourselves. Still, others are capable of surprising us, of acting against everything we believed of them. But the ability to shake things up depends largely on how we respond to darting moments of insight. We make decisions, Pym implies, especially when we decide to do nothing.

This novel re-works some aspects of Pym's earliest novel, Crampton Hodnet. In particular, the dynamics between a spinster and her companion (whose names and other characteristics she reprises) play out differently and perhaps more satisfyingly. The story itself could be said to be painted on a larger canvas, but more subtly.

I regularly reread this book and others by Pym because I enjoy her stories. But I do so knowing that she will challenge me, in the nicest possible way, to look at how I live with others and, even more cunningly, she will dare me to look at how I live with myself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym, March 29, 2013
By 
rainpebble (Western Washington) - See all my reviews
Jane, 41 and Prudence,29 are friends from school days at Oxford, Jane being the teacher and Prudence having been her pupil. They have remained friends these many years. Jane is married to a Vicar, Nicholas and they have a daughter, Flora who is ready to attend University. Prudence has remained a spinster though she has an imaginary crush on her married boss at work.
And though one would expect that of the two women Jane would be the one with common sense this does not prove out. Poor Jane goes through her life with very humorous vague thoughts, actions and conversation. In fact she is most inappropriate in the funniest of ways and at the strangest of times. In reading her I sometimes felt like a curtain just plop, dropped over her eyes and mouth. On the other hand Prudence has common sense even though she lives in a world of make believe love.
When Nicholas is transferred from his London Parish to a village Parish Jane and Prudence continue their friendship through letters and train trips back and forth to visit one another.
The women of the Parish often raise an eyebrow at Jane for she is definitely not your ordinary Vicar's wife plus the previous Vicar was unmarried though he was (**gasp**) engaged to a woman whom his parishioners had never met. And as with any Pym novel, there is much matchmaking by the ladies of the church.
I enjoyed this one as I do all of Barbara Pym's work but have waited to long to give a review of much content. For as Pym's works are all similar in the way of the nice middle aged spinster women doing their good deeds, working for the local Parish, caring for the Parish Curate or Vicar and spending time gossiping and matchmaking, if I don't write the review right away her books all run together in my head. But that is something I have come to love and depend on from her.
Like all of her other books that I have read, I recommend Jane and Prudence. I giggled and laughed my way merrily through this one. I do remember thinking that it is the funniest one of hers I have read yet. I rated it 4 stars out of 5.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Graceful and human, November 10, 2010
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This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
Barbara Pym (1913-1980) has been a late-in-life discovery for me. A year ago I read "Excellent Women" and was quite taken with it. I now think of it as one of the most under-appreciated English 20th-Century novels that I have come across and rather remarkable for an author's second novel. JANE AND PRUDENCE was the next of Pym's novels. Though not quite as fine as "Excellent Women", it clearly is from the same pen and is enjoyable reading.

Jane Cleveland is 41. Having gone to Oxford, she forsook scholarly work on the 17th-Century metaphysical poets in order to become a vicar's wife - a calling that does not come easily to her. Prudence Bates is her friend and a former student whom she met at Oxford during a brief tenure as a tutor. Prudence is 29, unmarried, and (as both Jane and she worry from time to time) in danger of becoming a spinster. Finding an appropriate match for Prudence is never far from Jane's mind.

The story (set in the early 1950's) is told from a woman's perspective. At one point, a spinster, commenting on a handsome widower who is notorious for his womanizing, notes that "men only want ONE THING." This being prim and proper England, what that THING is goes unvoiced. But Jane, actually married and thus a little more experienced, adds to that one thing, "typing a man's thesis, correcting proofs, * * * bringing up children, balancing the housekeeping budget." And the spinster observes that "men need company more than women do. A woman has a thousand and one little tasks in the house, and then her knitting or sewing."

It is a gentle feminist critique (circa 1953), mildly mocking and slightly rueful at the same time. The other object of Pym's understated, almost tender, satire is the Anglican Church and the conventions and social order that prevail in a country parish.

The narrative flows. It is light and deft. Jane and Prudence are full-fledged characters and all of the secondary and minor figures in the novel are comically human in their petty vanities and insecurities. JANE AND PRUDENCE is neither profound nor great, but it is graceful and human. I will soon go on to Barbara Pym's next novel; indeed, I sense that reading her could become mildly addictive.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best, December 7, 2008
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This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
Of the 4 Pym novels I have read so far (Excellent Women, Glass of Blessings, An Unsuitable Attachment), this is my favorite. On her favorite subject, the relationship between men and women, Pym is at her most profound and funniest, often in the same sentence.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jane, the Matchmaker, February 16, 2007
By 
Peter Blyth (Southrey, Lincolnshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jane and Prudence (Paperback)
This delightful story of two Oxford graduate friends, Jane and Prudence derives much of its humorous charm from Barbara Pym's fondness for stories centred around the Anglican Church. Jane has recently moved with her husband, Nicholas, to the village where he has just become the new vicar. She is very well-intentioned in trying to arrange for her friend, Prudence, to become romantically involved with the recently-widowed Fabian Driver. But a spinster of the parish, Jessie Morrow, is not to be thwarted in her own plans to 'land' Mr Driver. The ensuing intrigue has Pym's usual twists and turns leading to some quaint humour along the way before the matter is resolved.
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Jane and Prudence
Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym (Paperback - September 1, 1999)
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