A Glass of Blessings
by Barbara Pym
originally published, 1958
Open Road Media e-book, 2013
source: publisher via NetGalley
Book description (from publisher):
Barbara Pym’s early novel takes us into 1950s England, where life revolved around the village green and the local church—as seen through the funny, engaging, yearning eyes of a restless housewife.
Wilmet Forsyth is bored. Bored with the everyday routine of her provincial village life. Bored with teatimes filled with local gossip. Bored with her husband, Rodney, a military man who dotes on her. But on her thirty-third birthday, Wilmet’s conventional life takes a turn when she runs into the handsome brother of her close friend.
Attractive and enigmatic, Piers Longridge is a mystery Wilmet is determined to solve. Rather than settling down, he lived in Portugal, then returned to England for a series of odd jobs. Driven by a fantasy of romance, the sheltered, naïve Englishwoman sets out to seduce Piers—only to discover that he isn’t the man she thinks he is.
As cozy as sharing a cup of tea with an old friend, A Glass of Blessings explores timeless themes of sex, marriage, religion, and friendship while exposing our flaws and foibles with wit, compassion, and a generous helping of love.
"Oh Wilmet, life is perfect now! I've got everything that I could possibly want. I keep thinking that it's like a glass of blessings - life, I mean..."
"That comes from a poem by George Herbert, doesn't it?" I said. 'When God at first made man, Having a glass of blessings standing by ..."
"But don't forget that other line ... how when all the other blessing had been bestowed, rest lay in the bottom of the glass..." (loc 3996)Barbara Pym novels have been my "comfort read" of choice for several years. After all, what could be more cozy than life revolving around tea drinking and church activities in a quaint English village? When Open Road Media asked if I'd like to review their recently released e-book of A Glass of Blessings, I jumped at the chance.
From the opening paragraph, I was transported to familiar Pymsian surroundings and settled in to enjoy my visit. Before long, however, it became apparent that this story might be something a little different. Pym's characters in A Glass of Blessings display the expected entertaining array of human foibles, but Wilmet Forsyth is deeper and more complex than other Pym heroines. She is immensely likable, yet I often found myself growing frustrated with her. Over the course of the novel, Wilmet gains significant personal insights that eventually allow her to forge stronger relationships with both family and friends.
A Glass of Blessings is my fourth, and new favorite, Barbara Pym novel, but I imagine some aspects must have shocked her readers in 1958. Kudos to Open Road Media for releasing the ebooks in time for Barbara Pym's Centenary and making her work available to a new generation of readers.
by George Herbert
When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
"Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can.
Let the world's riches, which disperséd lie,
Contract into a span."
So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honor, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.
"For if I should," said he,
"Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.
"Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness.
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast."