Tuesday, 24 May 2016

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

If it is true that Barbara Pym reads like a 20th century Jane Austen, then No Fond Return of Love, first published in 1961, is possibly the best example. It begins when thirty-something Dulcie Manwaring attends an editor’s conference as a means to cure her misery following a broken engagement. She meets an old friend, the coolly elegant Viola Dace who has had a brief a romantic connection with one of the speakers, Aylwin Forbes.

Aylwin is astonishingly good looking, and married. Much of the book concerns Dulcie’s curiosity about Aylwin’s 'unsuitable' marriage, as well as Aylwin’s interest in Dulcie’s pretty young niece who has come to London to do a secretarial course. When Viola moves into one of Dulcie’s spare rooms, the two women plot and conjecture, unable to leave the state of Aylwin’s marriage alone.

This creates some comical scenes when Dulcie and Viola decide to snoop - actually the are more like stalkers! They attend the church where Aylwin’s brother Neville is a priest. He is also ridiculously good looking which causes issues with female parishioners. The story builds up to a showdown at the seaside hotel run by old Mrs Forbes, Aylwin’s mother.

No Fond Return of Love describes the vanishing world of disappointed women running jumble sales for the organ fund or taking on the thankless task of preparing indexes for academics. The novel is peppered with entertaining minor characters but the true hero of the book is Pym’s witty prose which kept me chuckling as I turned the pages. If you can get over the silliness of the characters, Pym's novels are charming and very entertaining.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: No Fond Return of Love

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