2014: 63. Some Tame Gazelle


"The new curate seemed quite a nice young man, but what a pity it was that his combinations showed, tucked carelessly into his socks, when he sat down."

Some Tame Gazelle, Barbara Pym

Well, this book.  Where to start?  Ok, I bought it because I remember hearing that Barbara Pym was one of these great underrated English woman writers (and indeed, she fell out of print until she was championed by Philip Larkin, so I didn't make that up).  And there was a Pym at my annual used book buying orgy (courtesy of the Bath Maine Fourth of July festivities - I go every year and never come home with less than a carton of books), so I bought it.  

Upon reading this book, I mentioned to my husband that, if I knew as much about, say, science, as I do about the ins and outs of early twentieth century British vicarages, I would probably be able to stop global warming.  The book, you see, is about two spinstery sisters who live together, one of whom gets a crush on every new curate, and the other who has been in love with the Archdeacon since they were at university together (he married someone else).  So lots of interparish intrigue, is what I'm saying (like the classic British fear of high church behavior which, oh the horror, smacks of Catholicism - seriously, fuck you, anti Catholic posh British authors).  

It seemed, at first, to be yet another British charmer a la Stephenson and Dodie Smith, but that's not quite accurate.  Pym has more bite - and no happy ending of any sort.  Instead, it's just a slice of a very specific type of life that some women lived.  And the weirdest part is that she based it upon herself and her sister - only she wrote it in her twenties about sisters in their forties - and then she and and her sister basically ended up living the life she wrote about.  Super weird.  But it is an interesting mediation on unrequited love (I also have thoughts about unrequited love, which the older I get seems less like love than ridiculous obsession, but I'll let that lie for another day).  And it is well written, because really, nothing happens at all - it starts and goes along, and ends up where it started, and I read every word.  And I'd probably read more Pym if I, say, came across it at next year's book sale, but I doubt I'll seek it out.

OH! And here is where the title comes from!

"Some tame gazelle, or some gentle dove:

Something to love, oh, something to love!"

~Thomas Haynes Bayly


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017