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Review: No Fond Return of Love, by Barbara Pym

In No Fond Return of Love, three people converge on an academic conference at a girls’ school: Dulcie Mainwaring, a middle-aged spinster living in the London suburbs; Viola Dace, an indexer; and Aylwin Forbes, a lecturer and editor, with whom Viola is in love. Dulcie soon finds herself becoming mildly obsessed with the handsome Aylwin; and looks him up in books at the local library and even walking past his mother-in-law's house. Oh, if only the internet had been around in the 1950s, when this novel is set!

Later, Dulcie’s niece, Laurel, moves in with her in order to attend a secretarial course; Viola, after an argument with her landlady, moves in not long after. Laurel soon finds herself being the object of Aylwin Forbes’s affection, even as Viola continues to be in love with him. What’s the levelheaded, eager-to-please Dulcie to do?

No Fond Return of Love is a sweet, gentle romance, much in the way that Jane Austen’s works are (and indeed, this novel has been compared to Persuasion). Pym does a wonderful job, in all of her works, of exposing her characters’ foibles. Dulcie is a bit of a saint, but not in the holier-than-thou or pedantic way, which I thought was delightful. In a way, Pym’s work is a lot like Muriel Spark’s, but I’ve found that I much prefer Pym. Her work is so much more genteel than Spark’s is.


Iliana said…
This sounds just delightful! I've only read one Barbara Pym novel but I loved it. I have a feeling I'd really enjoy her books. Actually I have several but just haven't gotten to them. sigh.
Dorothy W. said…
I read Excellent Women fairly recently and loved it and have been meaning to read more of her work. I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much!
Teddy Rose said…
Wonderful review! I'll have to give her a read sometime and added it to my TBR.
Kate Coe said…
I think you're missing some of Pym's polished jabs. The romance is pretty sweet, but she's not above slipping the blade in, at the same time. Read Quartet in Autumn, which is her most powerful work. Pym herself was far from prudish.

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