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."
This is my favorite Barbara Pym book. I thought too that it was going to be more cozy and more of a comfort read than it turned out to be. But Wilmet Forsyth is just such a great character.ReplyDelete
Elizabeth - This book was really not the typical cozy Pym I have come to expect. But then again, neither was Quartet in Autumn. Maybe I should refrain from categorizing her work until I have read it all? Wilmet Forsyth is definitely my favorite Pym character so far.Delete
I really liked this book, read it in December. Wilmet pops up in a later book, too, Less than Angels. We get a fleeting glimpse of her and Keith, her new best friend, looking around a castle or stately home (I seem to remember). Love when Pym does that, mentions someone from an earlier book in passing.ReplyDelete
Serenknitity - I'm so glad to know I'll run into Wilmet again! Meant to include how much I love the mention of old characters - in this book, she mentions Rocky Napier and others from Excellent Women. I loved hearing about Mildred (from Excellent Women) in Jane and Prudence, too. Adding Less than Angels to my wish list.Delete
She is complicated, isn't she? But it's also hard not to like her! I read all (or most) of BP's books years ago, but I'm long overdue for a reread, and now I can't wait for the centenary celebrations.ReplyDelete
Audrey - I loved Wilmet! She is my favorite Pym character yet.Delete
Oh wow, another great sounding book for Pym challenge. Great review.ReplyDelete
Diane - It's still available on NetGalley of you want to add a request.Delete
As you know, this is my second favorite Pym and it would be my first if I didn't have such a sentimental attachment to Mildred Lathbury. I think it is a true gem and is very thoughtful and sympathetic. Pym really shines and is at her best in this novel and yet I haven't heard many people claim it as one of their favorites! I hope more people read it this year during her centenary. Wilmet, Rodney, Keith and Piers also appear in No Fond Return of Love.ReplyDelete
Anbolyn - Excellent Women is now my second favorite Pym novel... I can't wait to read No Fond Return of Love!Delete
JoAnn, I am so happy I read your blog post! First, because Pym is one of my favorite writers. Second, because I realize I need to read more of her books besides my favorite "Excellent Women." "A Glass of Blessings" will be the next one I read (or reread, because I do think I read it a long time ago) and Third, because I had no idea it was her centenary. "Excellent Women" is simply one of the funniest and coziest books and I have read it many times. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Sunday Taylor - Excellent Women was my favorite until I read this one... sometimes I wonder if my most recent Pym novel will always be my favorite ;-)Delete
I've never read Pym but Thomas over at My Porch posted about a Pym event recently. A read-along or challenge. I forget which.ReplyDelete
Ti - Thomas and Amanda are co-hosting a Pym Week celebration in June... should be a lot of fun!Delete
I really need to read Pym -- I suspect I'd adore her!ReplyDelete
Audra - I think you would, too!Delete
Wish I could get on with Barbara Pym. Wasn't keen on Jane and Prudence (I think it was called) but I'll put this one on my tbr list as your recommend it. Nice review.ReplyDelete
Vintage Reading - Of the 4 Pyms I've read, Jane and Prudence is actually my least favorite.Delete
Sounds good! Had fun reading your review. I'm glad I finally entered the world of Pym (and even more glad that there are so many more adventures to choose from!)ReplyDelete
Melody - With all the Open Road Media ebooks, there are even more to choose from now!Delete
Sounds like I need to change comfort reads - Pym's books sound wonderful!ReplyDelete
Lisa - Hope you decide to give Pym a try!Delete
I've wanted to try Pyn and since this is your new favorite I think I'll try this one first!ReplyDelete
Stacybuckeye - Either this one of Excellent Women would be a great place to start.Delete