A book that argues the indispensable value of spinsters: Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

Illustration of a teapot

Pym’s spinsters are indispensable in any crisis

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym is about capable spinsters – truly excellent women capable of dealing with any sort of drama – observant, helpful, available and overlooked. Mildred, the protagonist, is just one of these women, pondering her life and her place in society as her various neighbours look to her in their crises, taking her help and availability as a given. Although 65 years old, this book remains poignant and insightful, exploring how one’s situation and others’ perceptions of it interact to shape both us and our experience of life. It took me a while to get into, perhaps because it felt a bit close to home. It forced me to consider how I’m affected by other’s attitudes to singleness and to conclude that sometimes the hardest part of singleness is dealing with other peoples’ assumption that the life of the spinster is a somewhat blighted existence!

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