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Liz F

Barbara Pym is wonderful and it has been far too long since I read any of her books.
I think I read all that were in print back in the 80's but nothing since although my copies are still on the shelf.


Barbara Pym is excellent. I am having difficulty thinking of any other books though! How sad is that? Feisty older heroines are apparently hard to come by. I hope you share the list you eventually come up with!


Here are a few mainly light-hearted books with (mostly older) widows and spinsters that I have enjoyed - you have probably read many of them!
Cranford Elizabeth Gaskell
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
The Nutmeg Tree Margery Sharp
Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther Elizabeth Von Arnim
Helen with the High Hand Arnold Bennett
Miss Mapp E F Benson
Secret Lives E F Benson
Family Album Antonia Ridge
Flowers for Mrs Harris Paul Gallico
Patricia Brent, Spinster Herbert Jenkins
Living Dangerously Katie Fforde
Madensky Square Eva Ibbotson
No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Alexander McCall Smith
I am not normally a Catherine Cookson fan, But her novel 'Rooney' written an set in the 1950s, is also one I enjoyed.
I also look forward to seeing other suggestions.


Isn't she great? I've only read a few of her books but I have loved everything I've read. I pulled a couple off my shelves to at least look at. The last I read was Crampton Hodnet last year. It was a hoot. I really do need to read another of her books soon.


I will have to put together a full list--may have to do a little investigating of my own. A few more authors/characters have come to mind like Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. She is definitely a little more sedate than Miss Pettigrew but you have to appreciate her brain power and wit.


This is wonderful--thanks so much for this fantastic list! I have read a few and am familiar with a number of the authors but most are new to me (at least those particular books). I have at least one Katie Fforde book (always mean to read her) and one of the Mrs Harris books by Paul Gallico (wonder if they should be read in any particular order?). I have never read any of the Lucia book, which is a little shameful really as I have heard those books are a treat! I have lots to choose from here. I was thinking--can add a few more books to the list--Miss Marple mysteries by Agatha Christie and the Miss Silver mysteries by Patricia Wentworth (though I am not sure how much the books delve into her private life). I should really give Miss Buncle a go, too! Hopefully there will be more suggestions--I will follow up and post a list of all the ideas! Thanks! :)


I really agree with you. It's so wonderful to read about an older woman, single, no kids and just enjoying it.
There are not enough role models for us still, I feel. Often when an older woman appears in a novel, she's tied to a role - widow - grandmother . . . You get my drift.
I have both of your books on my piles and I know I've read books that fit the description, only I can't remember the titles. One was a French novel by Noëlle Chatelet - of course not translated. Bah. The heroine is older than what you have in mind. I'll come back when I find more.


Danielle, Yes, you do need to read the Mrs Harris books in order - 'Flowers for Mrs Harris' is the first and was also published as 'Mrs Harris goes to Paris'. I think 'Living Dangerously' was the first and best of Katie Ffordes books - they later became a bit formulaic. Anyway, Happy Reading!


Add me to the Pym fan club. She has been much neglected. I read her letters and/or diaries somewhere and was most impressed. Utterly readable and very good on her non-stellar love life as a young woman....and her life in general.
Am currently reading Miss Buncle Married - a charming fantasy.


The books I haven't read but I liked Cordelia Gray as heroine in the mini series adaptation of P.D. James' books, and her collegue Edith Sparshott even more. Only thing is, she's beninning twenties, I guess.


I also thought of Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell. The narrator is an unmarried woman, and doesn't seem to be actively seeking to change that state. It's a very older women based story, and one of my all time favorites.

I also think the Anna Pidgeon mystery series by Nevada Barr fits nicely into this category. While Anna has relationships in the course of the series, the focus is really more on her as a middle-aged single, childless woman.


I didn't think it would be hard at all to find such books, but they are more rare than I thought. I don't mind romance in a book, but I am trying to find some where the ultimate goal is not to have a boyfriend or husband by story's end! I completely admire and respect women who have families, but it's just nice to be able to read about women in my own situation where children have not been part of life's equation--and that is okay--though you don't seem to see it in the literature! I think you are right--there are not role models for women like us--I think this is an entirely acceptable path in life to follow--too bad more writers don't write about it(in a positive light, too). Yes, too often a woman is either someone's mother or wife!If you come up with any titles they would be most appreciated--now I feel like I am on a quest! Pity about the Chatelet book--but surely there must be more out there!


Thanks, MichelleAnn, that is good to know. And how handy that I have Mrs Harris Goes to Paris--and to know about the title change--so confusing when publishers do this. I took a look at the two Katie Fforde books I have--both look interesting but both are later books and seem to be more about younger women--perhaps closer to chicklit, which I have nothing against, but I am just looking for something a little more specific. I will look for that first Fforde book--and am happy to have Mrs Harris sitting by my bed now!


I think you are right about Barbara Pym. I am sure that had it not been for the internet and blogs, I might not have more than one of her books on my shelves. I did own a copy of Excellent Women (a BOMC club edition!) prior to blogging, but now I have a whole stack of the. I also have a book of her diaries/letters. Miss Buncle--the first book is on my own stack, too!


Cordelia Gray is of "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman" fame? I have that one, and must go and check it out now. I don't mind a younger heroine, but one in her 40s would be a bonus! :)


I saw the movie adaptation of Cranford and it is such a wonderful story--I have the book somewhere. I like the premise (and I love Judi Dench in the movie). It's definitely what I had in mind--must check it out now, and the Nevada Barr books as well. I know she has been writing a long time and I have seen her books about, but I suppose it is the domestic setting that never compelled me to pick up her books and really check them out (always looking for a British or European setting--a bit narrow minded of me...). Anyway, I really like the sound of Anna Pidgeon--now will have to go in search of her books as I know I have nothing on hand by her--Thanks!

vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas)

I'm loving all these suggestions. The only one I can think of at the moment may be older than you are thinking (tho' I see Miss Silver got a mention), but anyway.. the Mrs Pollifax series by Dorothy Gillman. I'd quite like to re-read them now I've remember!


I think my favorite Pym is Jane and Prudence - but loved them all.
I read Miss Buncle in India - and left it there (who knows who read it after me!)
Read Miss Buncle Married in Prague - where I think youve been?
Prague was quite wonderful, magical, friendly and very slightly dark too.
My husbands ancestral land. He had never been there before.

tel 917 601 1530


Lela A

You might try the mysteries of Hazel Holt, she was a friend of Barbara Pym's and also, her biographer. Her heroine is older, perhaps in her 50s, and a widow with a, mostly grown, son. Not exactly what you are looking for, but she is pretty independent.


I was expecting loads of reading suggestions--maybe spirited heroines of a certain age not actively looking for romance are harder to come by than I thought?! Though I am quite pleased by the suggestions given--have already requested a few and added the others to my wishlist. I really must read more of Miss Silver's adventures, and I am unfamiliar with Mrs Pollifax, so must go and check her out now, thanks!


You have to love independently-minded women who turn sleuth--I have heard of Hazel Holt--didn't realize she was a friend of Barbara Pym's--how cool. I have added the first book to my wishlist but will see if I can find a copy of the book in the library. Thanks for the suggestion!


I have Jane and Prudence--must dig it out of my pile. It is hard to know where to start (or where to go next) with Pym. I should really start a regular rotation of her books--she has so many and they all sound good. As does Miss Buncle, too. I think it must surely fall into the 'charming' category like Miss Pettigrew maybe. I have been to Prague--absolutely loved it there! Yes, it is sort of 'dark' there--it seems all steeped in myth and with that castle sitting high up above the city... it is so very European there and little (architecturally anyway) seems to have changed in the last couple of centuries! Well, not sure what it is like now, but then anyway when I was there (early 1990s).

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