A Glass of Blessings (1958)

by Barbara Pym

Written in the first person, A Glass of Blessings is a story about how a bored, well-to-do young woman in 1950s London tries to find relevance and purpose. Wilmet Forsyth has a stable but unexciting marriage to a civil servant. With no job or children, she wonders what she does that’s of value. She turns to the activities at her Anglican parish—a common outlet for Pym’s heroines. Its new priest is quite handsome, and her best friend’s brother and husband pay her attention, resulting in romantic fantasies on Wilmet’s part. She thinks the brother is her secret admirer—and then discovers he is involved with a man.

In Wilmet’s desire to be useful, Pym noted the dissatisfaction of preliberation women. She was also one of the first novelists to deal sympathetically with gay characters. But her progressivism went only so far. Wilmet, who had thought herself astute, realizes how wrong some of her perceptions were, but the ending doesn’t suggest that she will make any great outward changes. She’s not going to get a job, leave her marriage, give up her privileged existence. She simply comes to terms with her life, concluding that perhaps it’s always been “a glass of blessings.”


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