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Books

Barbara Pym: a woman scorned

All hell broke loose when the editors at Cape turned down Barbara Pym’s seventh novel (even though it wasn’t much good)

23 May 2015

9:00 AM

23 May 2015

9:00 AM

Barbara Pym: A Passionate Force Ann Allestree

Book Guild, pp.158, £17.99, ISBN: 9781910298510

Anyone who has ever listened to the thump of a rejected manuscript descending cheerlessly on to the mat can take comfort from the roller-coaster career of Barbara Pym. Between 1950 and 1961 Miss Pym (1913–1980) had published six modestly successful novels with the firm of Jonathan Cape. Then, on 24 March 1963 — ‘a sobering fourth Sunday in Lent’, as Ann Allestree is careful to remind us — came a bolt from the skies, in the shape of a letter from Cape’s editorial director, Wren Howard, turning down the seventh with the age-old publisher’s bromide that ‘in present conditions we...

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