No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym


I was introduced to Barbara Pym by chance as her books often appear side by side with Anita Brookner, Rosamond Lehmann and a handful of English women authors that I love.

Her characters are most often vulnerable, albeit a bit lonely, sometimes gliding in unnoticed and yet their presence magnifies over time. In moments like this, it is when we recognize a bit of ourselves in them.

In No Fond Return of Love, we meet a heroine who seemed a bit worn around the edges, lives alone in her parents' big house at the London suburb and does the 'thankless task' of indexing for published authors. When she attends a weekend seminar, a needed break from the down spell of a broken engagement, she made new acquaintances and developed renewed interest as she began to be intertwined in their lives.

Dulcie is a kindred character (though first impressions would cast her as a mild and boring type) but behind the gentle, if not faded, appearance lies a rather droll streak and curiosity veiled by politeness (accustomed to the repressed English ways) and the goodness of her heart. She is keen to see the good in people despite their doubtful sincerity.

There have been comparisons of Pym to Jane Austen on the study of society figures. Austen will always be a classic, her work filled with wit and the bright charms of the lush English countryside. The liveliness of Austen's flair for storytelling is more presented on Pym's characters and their musings. Her comic timings are on point and unexpected.

Pym draws portraits of the middle-class society with irony and humor while at the same time gently skewers us with pitying, if not sad, truths. Her characters are, in one way or the other, has these little unfulfilled yearnings. People who could not seem to reach their fullest potential. It leaves them a bit resigned, a bit restless, a bit wanting for more which is like most of us in this entire world.

It was bittersweet and subtle. A quiet tale of the idiosyncrasies of love and unexpected joys of life despite the mundane routine of our day-to-day lives. I don't know why I like that things aren't as clear cut as most often wanted books to be (like the way Woolf gave cited the beauty of Chekhov's works). In a way it displays the inconsistencies, or the constancy of failings of being human. This study of realness in character I think is what makes Pym such an interesting read and funny, too.

I have read this book twice and it just feels more delightful each time. The last page really got to me and the overwhelming response filled me with such mixed emotions as I finished it.

Summary

In No Fond Return of Love, Pym introduces Dulcie Mainwaring, one of those seemingly selfless women who always help others and never look out for themselves, especially in matters of love. When Dulcie's young niece becomes the object of absentminded Professor Aylwin Forbes's amorous designs, Dulcie whisks away her friend Viola — who has her own designs on the professor — to the seaside in Taviscombe to discover the hidden secrets of the Forbes clan and a mysterious castle on the hill.

The Times Literary Supplement praised Barbara Pym (1913-1980) as “the most underrated writer of the century.”

Title: No Fond Return of Love
Author: Barbara Pym
Published: January 22, 2015
Publisher: Open Road Media
Rating: ♨♨♨♨♨ (5 cups - Gentle and quiet but there are moments of overwhelming power and hilarity.)

2 comments:

  1. I love Barbara Pym's quiet...almost restorative...for me at least... novels. Every now and then when life gets too busy..I need a Pym fix!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I absolutely agree. I love the pace of her writing and the way she sort of brings out feelings of relief.

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