“I’ve sometimes wondered whether novelists like to be remembered for what they’ve said or because they’ve said it in their own particular way—in their own distinctive voice. But how do you acquire your own voice or indeed any kind of voice? Does it come about as inevitably as your height or the colour of your eyes or do you develop it deliberately, perhaps in imitation of a writer you admire?”
Barbara Pym is what many would call an under-rated writer. In fact, many people (readers or not) haven’t heard of her. She has been compared to the likes of Jane Austen, with her skillful characterisation, social commentary and depiction of human nature and provincial life.
Her literary career didn’t go smoothly; she faced many rejections over the years. At one point, her publisher deemed her writing too old fashioned. However, she went on to have 11 books published, with 2 being published after her death. She’s now somewhat of a legend, with her writing standing the test of time.
In 1978 she spoke on BBC radio 3, where she discussed the classic struggle of a writer – finding a distinctive voice and style. With so much natural talent, years of experience and a healthy sense of self and realism, there’s so much we can still learn from her. Read the full transcript here.
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