A Few Green Leaves

Barbara Pym

Grafton 1981
A book review by Danny Yee © 2001 http://dannyreviews.com/
Anthropologist Emma Howick has come to the village where her mother lives with no real goal, just vague thoughts of writing something about English village life. Disturbed only by visits from an ex-lover, she settles into the local community, getting to know the two doctors and their wives, the vicar and his sister, some spinsters, a food critic, and a pair of bohemian academics. And that's pretty much the plot of A Few Green Leaves. No one is murdered, there is no more than a hint at romance, and the biggest drama comes when the elderly woman who used to tutor the children in the manor comes visiting from London and is briefly lost in the woods.

Pym is only teasing the reader with her hints at genre fiction, however, and once I stopped waiting for a body to be found A Few Green Leaves rather grew on me. It is a delicate miniature, but it offers subtle comedy, with a nice turn in irony and some sharp insights, even if these are delivered so gently they are easy to miss. Pym's model is obviously Jane Austen ("3 or 4 Families in a Country village is the very thing to work on") and like her she fits a surprising amount into a limited canvas. But the world Pym describes is, unlike Austen's, fragile and in flux: the manor is no longer occupied, new bungalows have been built, and the outside world unavoidably intrudes.

December 2001

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Related reviews:
- books about Britain + British history
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%T A Few Green Leaves
%A Pym, Barbara
%I Grafton
%D 1981
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0586054251
%P 220pp