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Pym: Excellent Women
Let's meet to discuss Barbara Pym's "Excellent Women." I think it's a very good choice to end the year on. Pym - like many of the women authors we've read - had to overcome great odds to achieve success. In a sense, Pym had to create herself. And for that, readers everywhere remain deeply grateful. This 1952 novel - which has a dry, lightly satiric style - centers around "Mildred Lathbury, a 35-ish spinster who becomes embroiled with the vicar, the neighbors, the neighbors' lodgers, and a few hopeless gentleman friends," according to the New York Times. The Guardian says "Excellent Women stands as one of the most endearingly amusing English novels of the 20th century." It is considered by many to be Pym's signature novel. Pym's own biography is a testament to the deep belief in one's own voice, and how much harder women have to strive to be heard. Pym was born in 1913 in Oswestry, Shropshire, in the West Country of England near the Welsh border. Pym began writing at an early age; by her mid-teens, she had finished a still unpublished novel. Pym attended St Hilda's College, Oxford. By 22, she had written her first full novel, "Some Tame Gazelle," but it wasn't published until 1950, 15 years later. This was symptomatic of the many challenges Pym faced in getting her work out to the world. Eleven more novels followed over a career that spanned 45 years. Yet in 1961, after a half-dozen novels, Pym's publisher rejected her latest submittal. Her work was called "out of step with the times." Pym sent the novel to 20 other publishers, but they too rejected it. This setback plunged Pym into what she called "the wilderness," a kind of literary limbo from which Pym thought she would never reemerge. Pym also suffered from personal tragedy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1971 and she underwent a mastectomy. In 1974, Pym suffered a minor stroke. But she kept working. In 1977, everything changed for Pym. The London Times Literary Supplement called Pym 'the most underrated novelist of the century." Her latest novel "Quartet in Autumn" was quickly published and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her books were finally released in America, and she won legions of new fans across the globe. Pym died in 1980, aged 67, but admiration of her work lives on. The Barbara Pym Society meets annually, and every few years, a new wave of readers discovers the joys of Pym's quiet, subtly beautiful novels.

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1612 20th Street Northwest · Washington

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    Women Writers Rule is a book club that meets in the Dupont Circle area to discuss novels, short stories, poetry, graphic novels, theater, and other publications by women writers. In these challenging times, we believe a focus on works by women writers is desperately needed.

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