With Civil to Strangers we come to the last of the Barbara Pym novels my online otherlit group has been reading. We have gone through her entire oeuvre, starting with Some Tame Gazelle and finishing with this posthumously published collection.
Barbara Pym is, as Philip Larkin said in 1977, one of the underappreciated writers of the mid-20th century. Her novels about excellent women, including Excellent Women, are a delight to read and her characters, especially her men, starting with the incomparable Archdeacon Hoccleve, are incomparable.
She has a sharp eye for the relationships between men and women from the woman's point of view and is especially observant of the unrequited love of women. There is a sadness in her novels, but there is also a rich vein of irony and humor. Her descriptions of food and meals and her mis-quotations - both found in every novel - build an understanding of women's lives, the satisfaction they can achieve with daily housework, and a regret that their often first-class educations are allowed to erode over the years.