When the modern world presses upon me too much - people looking down at their phones, almost running smack into me in the aisles of Target, the incivility and stupidity of reality television and the news - I crave a retreat to a simpler time. No, not the Amish inspirational romances that are so strangely popular these days. I crave something British, a bit genteel but with a smidgen of droll wit - something like Jane Austen or Barbara Pym. Pym's novels of the mid-twentieth century are like Austen's with their drawing rooms, spinsters, and vicars; just add electricity, automobiles, and church jumble sales. I adored Pym's Excellent Women and have been slowly making my way through the rest of her works. Alexander McCall Smith, another author who's work I've been recently enjoying, wrote a nice piece on Excellent Women for the Guardian.
It was a lovely morning, when even the monkey-puzzle (tree) was bathed in sunshine. She clasped a branch in her hand and stood feeling its prickliness and looking up into the dark tower of the branches. It was like being in church. And yet on a day like this, one realized it was a living thing too and had beauty, as most living things have in some form or another. Dear monkey-puzzle, thought Miss Morrow, impulsively clasping her arms around the trunk.
"Now Miss Morrow," came Miss Doggett's voice, loud and firm, "you must find some other time to indulge in your nature worship or whatever it is. You look quite ridiculous. I hope nobody saw you."
"Only God can make a tree," said Miss Morrow unexpectedly.
Miss Doggett goes on to point out that she messed up her dress, and Miss Morrow, seeing that her drab colored clothing was unsullied, thinks, 'That was the best of drab clothes. One could be a nature-worshipper without fear of soiling one's dress.'
I am so glad that I have yet to work my through all of Pym's novels. They are truly delightful and I intend to parse them out, savoring the pleasure for some time. And then, of course, there's always the joy of re-reading!