Skip to main content

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.
Rebecca H. 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.

Popular posts from this blog

Another giveaway

This time, the publicist at WW Norton sent me two copies of The Glass of Time , by Michael Cox--so I'm giving away the second copy. Cox is the author of The Meaning of Night, and this book is the follow-up to that. Leave a comment here to enter to win it! The deadline is next Sunday, 10/5/08.

A giveaway winner, and another giveaway

The winner of the Girl in a Blue Dress contest is... Anna, of Diary of An Eccentric ! My new contest is for a copy of The Shape of Mercy , by Susan Meissner. According to Publisher's Weekly : Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth—a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials—whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers—Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren Lars Durough, wealthy, earnest and young—become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars

Six Degrees of Barbara Pym's Novels

This year seems to be The Year of Barbara Pym; I know some of you out there are involved in some kind of a readalong in honor of the 100th year of her birth. I’ve read most of her canon, with only The Sweet Dove Died, Civil to Strangers, An Academic Question, and Crampton Hodnet left to go (sadly). Barbara Pym’s novels feature very similar casts of characters: spinsters, clergymen, retirees, clerks, and anthropologists, with which she had direct experience. So it stands to reason that there would be overlaps in characters between the novels. You can trace that though the publication history of her books and therefore see how Pym onionizes her stories and characters. She adds layers onto layers, adding more details as her books progress. Some Tame Gazelle (1950): Archdeacon Hoccleve makes his first appearance. Excellent Women (1952): Archdeacon Hoccleve gives a sermon that is almost incomprehensible to Mildred Lathbury; Everard Bone understands it, however, and laughs