Less Than Angels + My Brother Michael


Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym –Less Than Angels is the Librarything Virago Group’s Barbara Pym Centenary book for April and my first Pym of the year. I tried to read this sometime last year and didn’t get on with it, but this time I really loved it. The plot centers around a group of anthropology students, professors and their friends and families and their relationships and struggles to make connections with each other. The humor in this novel is particularly striking – I think it is the funniest of Pym’s novels I’ve read so far. The young female characters are really interesting, not as likeable as Wilmet Forsyth or Mildred Lathbury, but intelligent, imaginative and eccentric in a good way, especially Catherine. I liked the ensemble aspect of the novel and the focus on many different characters, all of them richly drawn. I’ve read that some readers don’t like the ending, and I admit it did seem incongruous with the rest of the plot, but Pym is so good at mixing the funny and the serious that it makes both qualities stand out and enhances the humanity of her stories. I’m not sure where I would place this among the other Pym novels I’ve read – probably nearish the top, but not over Excellent Women or A Glass of Blessings.

My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart – This is one of the three Stewart’s set in Greece (The Moonspinners and This Rough Magic are the other two) and it is her ode to the country she loved and where she felt at home.  This love shines through My Brother Michael and makes Greece seem like a magical place despite the murder and mayhem the main character encounters. The book starts with Camilla Haven taking a chance. She takes a hired car that doesn’t belong to her from Athens to Delphi to prove to herself that she is adventurous and spontaneous. When she gets to Delphi she tries to find the person who did hire the car and meets Simon, a British school master who is in the area to discover the truth behind his brother Michael’s death during the war. As Camilla and Simon delve into the mystery, they encounter a dangerous plot that threatens their lives and the fate of some majestic ancient ruins. The descriptions of the Delphi area are stunning – the typical Stewart appreciation for nature and antiquities really works in this book. There is also a tiny supernatural feel to the plot that fits in with the mystical setting. I didn’t like the main male character as well as I have some of her other heroes, but that is my only quibble. My Brother Michael is another great novel by Stewart and makes me even more excited for Mary Stewart Reading Week in September.


I really liked these thoughts on yesterday’s tragedy. I pray for the people who were injured in Boston and for them to be healed, physically and emotionally.

16 thoughts on “Less Than Angels + My Brother Michael

    1. I haven’t decided yet what I am going to read for the Pym reading week – probably the Virago book for the month, but I need to figure it out soon. I do know that I am going to make cauliflower cheese that week!


  1. vicki (bibliolathas / skiourophile)

    Like Lisa, this is a good reminder for me to get organised! I really liked the Mary Stewarts set in Greece a lot, and I have read quite a few of her other titles, so I think I really need to get myself some Pym.


    1. I haven’t read This Rough Magic, but I love The Moonspinners – she writes about Greece in a very appealing way.
      Pym is wonderful and I’m so excited that people are going to be reading her books in June.


  2. Katrina

    I haven’t decided what to read for the Mary Stewart reading week, maybe the last of her Arthurian series which I haven’t read yet. Or maybe a Greek setting to get some warmth!


  3. Charlie

    Good reviews 🙂 It’s always nice to read reviews that are critical when you know the reader is a fan of the author in general, it makes the review all the more appealing because of the context. Glad to hear it’s a good read overall.


  4. Claire (The Captive Reader)

    Okay, somehow I missed that there was a Mary Stewart reading week coming up but it sounds like the perfect time for me to finally read something beyond The Crystal Cave!


  5. jessicabookworm

    Sounds like two more lovely reads for you. The more I hear about Mary Stewart the more I think I need to be reading her work!


  6. JoAnn (Lakeside Musing)

    I love that Pym writes characters into multiple novels. Hoping to read Some Tame Gazelle and hopefully Less Than Angels, too, for Pym week. I look forward to meeting Wilmet and Mildred again!


    1. I love that too, JoAnn! It is so lovely to come across a much-loved character in a novel not about them. Mildred shows up in Less Than Angels, in a way. Very fascinating. I think I am going to be reading Quartet in Autumn for Pym week. It is the first Pym I bought and I am looking forward to it.


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