Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym

I love being in Barbara Pym's world. The women and men are so civilized, the vicars are usually handsome, the cups of tea are so delicious.

Not much happens in A Glass of Blessings (1958) but on the other hand so much happens. 

Immediately we meet the narrator, thirty-three-year-old Wilmet Forsyth sitting in St. Luke's Church on her birthday.  It is October 18, the feast day of St. Luke. 

Before her next birthday, Wilmet will have had two mild flirtations - one with the husband of Rowena, her best friend, and one with Rowena's brother, Piers. Nothing like keeping it all in the family.

She will have made the acquaintance of Mary Beamish, a rather dowdy woman whose life revolves around her rather censorious elderly mother and Good Works. Mary, of course, will fall in love with the handsome new vicar at St. Luke's, Mr. Ransome.

Then there is Wilmet's husband Rodney, who works at some unnamed Ministry and her mother-in-law Sybil. They all live in Sybil's house on a leafy square in London and enjoy lunches and dinners prepared by cook and housekeeper Rhoda. Quite comfortable. 

She will come to know the aging Father Thames and perky Father Bode of St. Luke's who live in the clergy house and are tended to by a Mr. Bason who likes to surprise the fathers with gourmet suppers and who loves 'beautiful things' especially Father Thames's bejeweled Fabergé egg.

Wilmet will take walks, enjoy lunches and dinners, put on hats and jewelry to match her outfits, take classes in Portuguese (from the above-named Piers who, as it turns out, is gay), and solve the mystery of the FabergĂ© egg. She will drink many, many cups of tea. 

Within the year, although she has had a disappointment or two, she will come to appreciate that her life, comfortable and secure as it is, is a glass of blessings.

I so enjoyed following along with Wilmet as she attended church services, toured the clergy house, went shopping with Mary, had luncheon dates with Rowena, sipped glasses of sherry, and visited her hairdresser Monsieur Jacques.  

This is one of the two books by Ms. Pym that I picked up recently at the Book Cellar, the used book store run by the Friends of the Library in Lexington. Ms. Pym has a wonderful eye for details that certainly puts the reader in the scene. Her characters carry on interesting and witty conversations and make astute observations about people and life. I am quite ready to dive back into her world with the other book of hers that I purchased, Crampton Hodnet.


  1. Barbara Pym's writing sounds lovely, Belle: a slow book wander where one gets to know the characters. This has been recommended to me before and I've never managed to either find it or look for it. Now, I will.

    1. I really enjoyed this one, Penny. It has been a long time since I read any of Ms. Pym's books. This was a good one to start with.