Author Harrison Solow’s creative genius is apparent, and cleverly cloaked in her genre-defying novel Felicity & Barbara Pym. The story is told through Professor Mallory Cooper’s one-sided correspondence with her student Felicity, who’s considering a liberal arts degree without considering the context of literature. Felicity is intrigued by her esteemed professor’s extraordinary life, and her own media-bottled notions of Hollywood.
Professor Cooper employs the novels of underrated English author, Barbara Pym, and a cornucopia of witty, erudite opinions and subjects —weak male characters, word derivations, mousy women, academic posers, religious assumptions, prejudiced poetry, the significance of clothing in novels and the intangibility of fame—to entice (and boot) Felicity out of her teenage status quo.
Harrison Solow removes the reader’s literary boundaries without the reader realizing she placed an eraser in their hands. Felicity & Barbara Pym is a proof of the unification theory the author refers to in the book’s preface in which “seemingly unrelated facts or principles can coalesce into a magnificently unified microcosm, wherein all components balance beautifully, harmoniously and usefully with the application of appreciation to knowledge.”
Readers of all levels and circumstance need to keep a pad of paper and pencil handy while reading Felicity & Barbara Pym. Long after they’ve finished the novel, the majority will still be on the path placed by Solow in her tuition-free, DIY literary tour de force.