An Academic Question

Pym, Barbara. An Academic Question. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1986.

When this book landed on my desk I nearly laughed. It’s only 182 pages long with a decidedly easy-to-read large font. Needless to say I read it in a day!
Here are some things that intrigued me about the book before I read it: Barbara Pym died of breast cancer when she was only 66 years old. Her last book, An Academic Question was published six years after her passing and is actually a blend of two different manuscripts.
Here’s what I put on LibraryThing: An Academic Question at first read appears to be about a lonely, bored, mother of one, who is feels neglected her professor husband. Her friends are bland, her hobbies even moreso. It’s only after she agrees to help her husband find information to support an article he is drafting do things really start to get interesting. As with any academic, there is competition to get published and for Caro’s husband the pressure is on. Human emotion is played out in subtle detail as Caro deals with jealousy, betrayal, and the need for approval from everyone around her.

One of my favorite scenes is when Caro is in the audience, listening to a young professor give a lecture. Bored with the beautiful lecturer’s topic, Caro starts to focus in on how the striking woman is dressed. Upon noticing a pale pink rose pinned between her breasts Caro decides the color matches the roses she has in her own garden. Soon she is imagining her own husband placing the rose…and speculation and imagination create jealousy which becomes an accusation later on…It truly is a classic way jealousy manifests itself.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “Barbara Pym: Too Good To Miss” (p 196).


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