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A Few Green Leaves
(BARBARA PYM)

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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.

 



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