Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
Mildred Lathbury is 32 and unmarried, which appears to render her an elderly old maid in English society. (She keeps sounding older than she actually is.) Mildred likes her quiet life helping in the parish and taking tea with friends, and while she would like to marry, she doesn't want to marry any of the actual men of her acquaintance. The quiet little neighborhood gets a bit shook up when a married couple move in and become Mildred's upstairs neighbors, and a pretty young widow takes lodgings in the rector's attic. Everybody wants Mildred's advice or help or energy. Why not move in with her or expect her to pack all the furniture? Surely she has nothing better to do...
Amy at Book Musings said the other day
that Barbara Pym novels have "some sly observational humor that's
crushed under the weight of a little too much depressing postwar English
ennui." Which is the PERFECT thing to say about Barbara Pym. I've now
tried her twice and have come to the conclusion that, as much as I
should theoretically like her, I just do not. I heard that Excellent Women was an early novel and a very funny comedy. It was OK, and I read the whole thing, but my final conclusion has to be...meh.
I liked Mildred and her stubborn refusal to live down to everyone's expectations that she pine after any single man around. I liked that it was a novel that didn't have a romance as its focus. But it didn't seem all that funny to me. Witty and mildly amusing, yes, but not the "high comedy" it is billed to be.