A Glass of Blessings is, along with Excellent Women (1952), the only first person narrative among the novels Barbara Pym published during her lifetime. Like the earlier book, it focuses on the one character rather than on a group or community, though to be sure a wide range of characters is seen and judged through Wilmet’s eyes.
If A Glass of Blessings departs from Pym’s prevailing narrative convention, so Wilmet Forsyth is unusual among Pym heroines. First, she is a married woman, though marriage for Wilmet is a comfortable confinement, an arrangement that permits her worst qualities, idleness and self-indulgence, to flourish. Wilmet is similarly handicapped by two other positive gifts of fortune, beauty and taste, that Pym seldom grants in abundance to her heroines. In Pym’s novels, such women as Wilmet, Leonora Eyre in The Sweet Dove Died (1978), and Prudence Bates of Jane and Prudence (1953) consider their beauty sufficient in and of itself to gain for them the romantic regard of men. Miss Bates makes an incidental appearance in A Glass of Blessings as the passively attractive “other woman” whom Rodney takes to dinner, if not to bed. Wilmet, in much the same manner, considers the admiration of men nothing less than her due. The novel’s sequence of events teaches her two important points: that men can love less lovely women (or, in Piers’s case, other men) and that feminine friendship and the solid affinities of marriage are more important to her life than is the romance she wants to receive from Piers, Harry,...
(The entire section is 648 words.)