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No Fond Return Of Love (Virago Modern Classics Book 271)

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Dulcie Mainwearing is always helping others, but never looks out for herself - especially in the realm of love. Her friend Viola is besotted by the alluring Dr Aylwin Forbes, so surely it isn't prying if Dulcie helps things along? Aylwin, however, is smitten by Dulcie's pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it may be, is falling, just a little, Dulcie Mainwearing is always helping others, but never looks out for herself - especially in the realm of love. Her friend Viola is besotted by the alluring Dr Aylwin Forbes, so surely it isn't prying if Dulcie helps things along? Aylwin, however, is smitten by Dulcie's pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it may be, is falling, just a little, for Aylwin. Once life's little humiliations are played out, maybe love will be returned, and fondly, after all . . .


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Dulcie Mainwearing is always helping others, but never looks out for herself - especially in the realm of love. Her friend Viola is besotted by the alluring Dr Aylwin Forbes, so surely it isn't prying if Dulcie helps things along? Aylwin, however, is smitten by Dulcie's pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it may be, is falling, just a little, Dulcie Mainwearing is always helping others, but never looks out for herself - especially in the realm of love. Her friend Viola is besotted by the alluring Dr Aylwin Forbes, so surely it isn't prying if Dulcie helps things along? Aylwin, however, is smitten by Dulcie's pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it may be, is falling, just a little, for Aylwin. Once life's little humiliations are played out, maybe love will be returned, and fondly, after all . . .

30 review for No Fond Return Of Love (Virago Modern Classics Book 271)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Anyone who has a fondness for the repressed English middle class should find this enchanting. With characters who glory in names like Dulcie Mainwaring, Viola Dace and Aylwin Forbes, you know you are in the territory of comedy of manners. Pym has been compared to Austen, which is unfair on anyone, but whereas Austen dealt in a society of strict rules, Pym's London of the turn of the 60's deals in much more vague customs and therein lies the comedy: the etiquette of the church jumble sale, who to Anyone who has a fondness for the repressed English middle class should find this enchanting. With characters who glory in names like Dulcie Mainwaring, Viola Dace and Aylwin Forbes, you know you are in the territory of comedy of manners. Pym has been compared to Austen, which is unfair on anyone, but whereas Austen dealt in a society of strict rules, Pym's London of the turn of the 60's deals in much more vague customs and therein lies the comedy: the etiquette of the church jumble sale, who to invite to dinner parties, dare one mention a mutual acquaintance who might be thought to be a libertine? This is a comfortable read: lovely, sweet and heart-warming, like a cup of tea after a bracing walk. But it is a level above comfort reading, because the details are just right: in cup of tea terms, the china pot has been warmed properly and the porcelain cup is spot on. Someone has even made a fire in the hearth. Come on in and make yourself comfortable.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    “There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the more unusual.” How could a novel with such an opening sentence not be anything but wonderful? I already had an idea that No Fond Return of Love, (along with Jane and Prudence) – was my favourite Pym, I’m now convinced of it. Shortly after her engagement is broken off, Dulcie Mainwaring attends a conference at a girl’s boarding school in Derbyshire. Clustered together are a strange group of sc “There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the more unusual.” How could a novel with such an opening sentence not be anything but wonderful? I already had an idea that No Fond Return of Love, (along with Jane and Prudence) – was my favourite Pym, I’m now convinced of it. Shortly after her engagement is broken off, Dulcie Mainwaring attends a conference at a girl’s boarding school in Derbyshire. Clustered together are a strange group of scholars, indexers and proof readers. Dulcie is given a room next to Viola Dace, who has been holding a bit of a torch for Aylwin Forbes, who will speaking during the weekend, and for whom she has previously done some indexing work. Aylwin becomes something of a fascinating figure for both women, but increasingly for Dulcie. Once the conference is over, and everyone back home, Aylwin a handsome scholar separated from his wife becomes the focus for Dulcie’s fantasies and fairly thorough investigations. Dulcie is living alone in a large house she once shared with her parents, she is soon joined by her eighteen year old niece Laurel, and not long after that, Viola Dace – in need of a temporary home also moves in. Dulcie begins to indulge in what today we would not hesitate to call fairly intensive stalking. With the help of various directories and who’s who – Dulcie tracks down, Aylwin’s mother-in-law, and Anglican priest brother. Viola rather aids and abets Dulcie – the two of them discussing the Forbes family at length, neither of them thinking it in the least odd for Dulcie to visit her Aunt and Uncle so that she has an excuse to go home via Aylwin’s brother’s church. Meanwhile Dulcie’s niece Laurel has started a tentative relationship with the boy next door – while longing to move out of Dulcie’s house and into a bedsitter – where she can lead a bachelor girl kind of life and eat in coffee bars. It is while she is in the midst of this transition that she first comes to the notice of Aylwin Forbes himself, despite his being older than her father. Thus the scene is set for a fabulous comedy of manners, and unrequited love. Part of Barbara Pym’s genius lays in the minutely observed everyday situations of her upper middle class characters, we may never have lived their lives, yet somehow they are peculiarly recognisable. There is a delicious dry humour to Pym’s writing that is comforting and subtly profound. Her dialogue and interactions between characters is, as ever spot on, some of the scene just brilliantly acute. The awkwardness of a hotel dining room, the worry of whether a cauliflower cheese will stretch, avoiding someone at a station, Barbara Pym portrays all these curious little things with absolute perfection. “Sitting aimlessly in bedrooms- often on the bed itself- is another characteristic feature of the English holidays. The meal was over and it was only twenty five past seven. 'The evening stretches before us,' Viola said gloomily.” I love the way Pym manages to expose those wicked little thoughts we all have from time to time. I think many readers have found that there is very much more to Miss Pym than meets the eye. Of course one of the things regular readers of Pym’s novel adore – is how she drops characters from other novels into the story, here we glimpse characters from A Glass of Blessings.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mary Durrant

    Just delightful and what was very much needed to take me away from reality!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    Barbara Pym is, for me, one of the best writers that I have ever read. She has a way of making every day life in little British towns seem so interesting and enthralling that I never want to leave. This tale of a woman's obsession with a man she meets at an "indexing and editing" conference showed such deft touch that at the end I felt sad to leave Dulcie's life. She creates a mystery in her mind that revolved around this man, Aylwin, and searches out his wife, with whom he is currently separate Barbara Pym is, for me, one of the best writers that I have ever read. She has a way of making every day life in little British towns seem so interesting and enthralling that I never want to leave. This tale of a woman's obsession with a man she meets at an "indexing and editing" conference showed such deft touch that at the end I felt sad to leave Dulcie's life. She creates a mystery in her mind that revolved around this man, Aylwin, and searches out his wife, with whom he is currently separated, his brother, a pastor who has had one of his clergy fall in of with him, and his mother, who is just plain odd. Dulcie is so involved in where and how Aylwin came to be who he is - and really in all accounts we should not care. But I did. I felt like I was there with her each step of her odd journey. Pym also has a way of making little side characters interesting enough that when they take full control of the story you are not thrown off, but not so much that the take away from everything else. From Paul the flower guy to Dulcie's niece, I was hooked. I highly recommend Pym to people who like books like Stoner or Gilead. Books about simple life, and how people are who they are.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    Another of my ‘theme’ reads for June and another that was a perfect fit, taking us back into the familiar world of proof-readers, editors, and index-makers. Dulcie Mainwaring lives alone in a London suburb in her large family home after her mother’s death. She has been working from home over the last few years making indexes and has been leading a generally happy, though perhaps not particularly eventful life. At a conference, she encounters Viola Dace, who is besotted with the very handsome Dr Another of my ‘theme’ reads for June and another that was a perfect fit, taking us back into the familiar world of proof-readers, editors, and index-makers. Dulcie Mainwaring lives alone in a London suburb in her large family home after her mother’s death. She has been working from home over the last few years making indexes and has been leading a generally happy, though perhaps not particularly eventful life. At a conference, she encounters Viola Dace, who is besotted with the very handsome Dr Alwyn Forbes—but Alwyn has problems of his own. His marriage is breaking up, and his lecture at the conference doesn’t go exactly as planned when he faints while delivering it. Meanwhile Dulcie’s niece Laurel comes into town to stay with her while she is taking a secretarial course while Viola moves in as well. Alwyn begins to take an interest in Laurel, and Dulcie herself a little in Alwyn. Laurel has another admirer of course, and Dulcie’s ex finacé seems to be rethinking his decision. But this somewhat ridiculous and convoluted state of affairs doesn’t cause anyone too much heartbreak, and Dulcie certainly has her share of fun looking into Alwyn’s family and roots and taking a more active part (not on her own behalf though) rather than simply watching things play out. Play out they do, and with other characters with their own eccentricities, idiosyncrasies, and problems, there is plenty for the reader to ‘watch’ and smile along with. This one was probably among the lighter hearted Pyms (all of them are, of course, but this some do end up having a touch of melancholy but this one didn’t). I liked Dulcie quite a lot and enjoyed watching her antics as she gets up to all sorts of tricks to satisfy her curiosity about Alwyn and his family. Dulcie isn’t one of Pym’s excellent women—she doesn’t really attend church or involve herself in charity work—but looking into Alwyn takes her to those familiar Pymish places, various church services, a charity jumble sale, even a seaside trip, and the reader certainly has fun going along. There are twists and turns and some unexpected things that happen, just the kind that life throws up every now and then, but nothing to bring you down, but just flow along with pleasantly, a world that is lovely to lose oneself in for a bit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katherine L

    I'd never heard of Barbara Pym before, but happened on an article describing her work, and how it went out of fashion and then (sort of) came back in again. http://www.salon.com/2013/03/14/barba... So the next time I was at the library, I picked up one of her books: "No Fond Return of Love." This book sounds like it should be a romance novel, and is--sort of. Almost everything in this novel is driven by chance: the main character meets the women who becomes her annoying friend at a conference sim I'd never heard of Barbara Pym before, but happened on an article describing her work, and how it went out of fashion and then (sort of) came back in again. http://www.salon.com/2013/03/14/barba... So the next time I was at the library, I picked up one of her books: "No Fond Return of Love." This book sounds like it should be a romance novel, and is--sort of. Almost everything in this novel is driven by chance: the main character meets the women who becomes her annoying friend at a conference simply because they are rooming next door to each other; they later become roommates simply because one of them has rooms available at a time that the other needs to move, not because of any great friendship; and they investigate (and, by modern standards, stalk) the life of a handsome man simply because they are bored, not out of any great interest or real passion for the man himself. There are mild plots and subplots, and a generous helping of day-to-day life of a particular English class at a particular time. And there are marriages. But this is much closer to Jane Austen (who is mentioned, along with a lot of funny metacommentary about what it means to be a writer and flesh out a character) than to today's standard page-turning, sexual-tension-driven, in-search-of-a-better-life-romance that has to end up with an obvious happily ever after. If you like "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series or even George Orwell's "The Clergyman's Daughter," you'll probably like this story and, by extension, the rest of her work. I also thought that this sort of story was what J.K. Rowling was trying to achieve in "The Casual Vacancy," and I like Pym's work better. I really l liked it; as advertised, it's like sitting down for a cup of tea with knitting, and I felt time slow down around me as I read. Off to the library in search of more...

  7. 5 out of 5

    ^

    Bittersweet and tender, the plot of “No Fond Return Of Love” beckons its reader through a broken heart into a plot comprising a residential conference in Derbyshire, an Anglo-Catholic Lent, a missing clergyman, the most uncongenial English seaside B&B establishments imaginable, and back for final statements in London. It’s a plotline of unusual combination, which remarkably, works. The ‘learned conference’ which brilliantly begins the first two chapters of this book sets the initial note of Pym Bittersweet and tender, the plot of “No Fond Return Of Love” beckons its reader through a broken heart into a plot comprising a residential conference in Derbyshire, an Anglo-Catholic Lent, a missing clergyman, the most uncongenial English seaside B&B establishments imaginable, and back for final statements in London. It’s a plotline of unusual combination, which remarkably, works. The ‘learned conference’ which brilliantly begins the first two chapters of this book sets the initial note of Pym(re)gret within the book. It doesn’t take long (page 3, to be exact) before the reader discovers that this gathering is far from being a sparkling Oxbridge exercise of academic cut & thrust for the prize of determining and polishing reputations and determining pecking order within the peer group. No. This is instead a gathering of worthy cleaners: of those who scrabble to identify and claim their ordered places through the housekeeping work of preparing learned manuscripts for the published glorification of authoritative academics. As worker bees their reward is merely to bathe in the cooler, reflected sunshine that represents a less lauded association with the reputational glory conferred by published academic research. The tragedy of coming second, of confidence portrayed in watercolour rather than in oils, is subtly painted within those first two chapters … before changing medium to bounce and play loose as might a reel of decaying 1960s peach Sylko cotton thread dropped from the making of a debutante’s dress. Through the maze of social uncertainty and angst which forms the meat of the remainder of this book, the plot finally winds-up with a second stamp of that trademarked enigmatic bittersweet Pym(re)gret; this time left hanging on the inside of window in Ladbroke Grove in (the less fashionable) North Kensington. A strangely addictive book indeed!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sakshi Kathuria

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Review to be up soon !! Loved the voice and wit of Barbara Pym and I am so happy to have made a discovery and foray into her writing :)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ruthiella

    Little did I know that there is a “Pymverse” in which many of Barbara Pym’s characters operate. For careful readers there is a tiny Easter egg from Excellent Women in Less Than Angels and now I find another follow up tidbit from Less than Angels in No Fond Return of Love. I don’t know why but this makes me absurdly happy. The main character of No Fond Return of Love is Dulcie Mainwaring who decides to attend a weekend conference on publishing (she works freelance as an indexer and research) to he Little did I know that there is a “Pymverse” in which many of Barbara Pym’s characters operate. For careful readers there is a tiny Easter egg from Excellent Women in Less Than Angels and now I find another follow up tidbit from Less than Angels in No Fond Return of Love. I don’t know why but this makes me absurdly happy. The main character of No Fond Return of Love is Dulcie Mainwaring who decides to attend a weekend conference on publishing (she works freelance as an indexer and research) to help her get over her broken engagement. Dulcie likes researching people as well. ‘I love finding out about people’, said Dulcie, ‘I suppose it’s a sort of compensation for the dreariness of everyday life’. I have to imagine that Dulcie shares this interest in the lives of strangers with Barbara Pym herself. At the conference, Dulcie meets the dreary Viola Dace, a fellow indexer and Aylwin Forbes, a handsome, married forty-something author with whom both Viola and Dulcie maybe, sort-of fall in love. It’s all very Pymsian as their lives intertwine, making the London suburbs seem like cozy village rather than a sprawling metropolis. As usual, I laughed out loud multiple times. The humor is so subtle and surprising.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This is a quiet English novel about a single woman working a quiet job. Her fiancé broke off their engagement and she now lives alone in her deceased parents' house. By all descriptions in the story, she is dowdy and boring, but she slowly insinuates herself into other people's lives and in doing so, creates a new more interesting life for herself. I almost gave up halfway through as it is not a page turner, but the ending was worth the reading. While I usually like more action in my reading, th This is a quiet English novel about a single woman working a quiet job. Her fiancé broke off their engagement and she now lives alone in her deceased parents' house. By all descriptions in the story, she is dowdy and boring, but she slowly insinuates herself into other people's lives and in doing so, creates a new more interesting life for herself. I almost gave up halfway through as it is not a page turner, but the ending was worth the reading. While I usually like more action in my reading, there is a place for quieter stories and I will give Barbara Pym another try. Thanks to Thomas of The Readers for the recommendation.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mary Narkiewicz

    I'm on my tenth or so reading of this delicious classic by Barbara Pym. Immortal lines and scenes such as Alwyn Forbes fainting at his lecture on "Some Problems of an Editor", or Dulcie Mainwaring wishing she had some knitting because it seemed like Viola Dace was about to share some secrets with her and at least she's have the sleeve of a sweater knitted at the end of the conversation... and so many more. My worn out faded copy is filled with notes and check marks and underlinings around the pl I'm on my tenth or so reading of this delicious classic by Barbara Pym. Immortal lines and scenes such as Alwyn Forbes fainting at his lecture on "Some Problems of an Editor", or Dulcie Mainwaring wishing she had some knitting because it seemed like Viola Dace was about to share some secrets with her and at least she's have the sleeve of a sweater knitted at the end of the conversation... and so many more. My worn out faded copy is filled with notes and check marks and underlinings around the places that made me laugh out loud, or at least snicker!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diane Lynn

    I loved everything about this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bibliophile

    You'd be forgiven for dismissing Barbara Pym's novels as quaint and old-fashioned. They're full of dotty old vicars and eccentric spinsters and church jumble sales. For someone like me, the epithet "comedy of manners" usually functions as a deterrent, unless referring to Austen. Pym's writing, while dealing with the exotic customs of the English middle-class, has so much depth and wit it is impossible to resist its charms. Her low-key humor and sharp observations make even the most trivial accou You'd be forgiven for dismissing Barbara Pym's novels as quaint and old-fashioned. They're full of dotty old vicars and eccentric spinsters and church jumble sales. For someone like me, the epithet "comedy of manners" usually functions as a deterrent, unless referring to Austen. Pym's writing, while dealing with the exotic customs of the English middle-class, has so much depth and wit it is impossible to resist its charms. Her low-key humor and sharp observations make even the most trivial account of everyday life a joy to read. This one was published in 1961 and concerns the domestic and romantic lives of a group of mismatched people in London. The story is mainly told by Dulcie, a thirty-something single woman who, after a broken engagement, is quite happily settling into spinsterhood. At a learned conference (I want to go to a learned conference!) with lectures titled "Some problems of indexing" and "Some problems of editing" (on second thought, I don't want to go) she befriends the haughty Viola, who is carrying a torch for conceited writer Aylwin Forbes. Fascinated by these odd creatures(and hot for the dashing Aylwin), Dulcie starts snooping around in a very roundabout way, although she doesn't consider it snooping but research. She takes it seriously too, and her sleuthing leads her to Alwyn's brother, who naturally turns out to be a vicar (just looking someone up in Who's Who is too dull for Dulcie). Before long the cast of characters grows to include bitchy mother-in-laws, estranged wives and uppity nieces. Simply wonderful.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Finch

    My mother had been urging me to read Barbara Pym for years and I had resisted. Perhaps I'd picked one up too early and thought its gentle humour dull. How wrong I was. Comparisons to Jane Austen abound with Barbara Pym and it is hard not to see why. Her humour and observations are very quietly but pointedly made. The characters are beautifully observed and judged. The story is about love and is again similar to Austen in that it depicts women who have limited social choices. The protagonist is in My mother had been urging me to read Barbara Pym for years and I had resisted. Perhaps I'd picked one up too early and thought its gentle humour dull. How wrong I was. Comparisons to Jane Austen abound with Barbara Pym and it is hard not to see why. Her humour and observations are very quietly but pointedly made. The characters are beautifully observed and judged. The story is about love and is again similar to Austen in that it depicts women who have limited social choices. The protagonist is in her early thirties and is consigned to the social dustbin - her only hope of amusement is doing "good works" for the church. However, she is a curious woman who is looking for more from her constrained social circle. She takes risks to further her infatuation with Ailwyn Forbes, a minor academic she meets at a conference on the art of indexing. Along the way, she befriends Viola Dace (real name Violet) who is unworthy of the kindness shown to her. This is a gentle, charming book which makes points about its cast of varied characters in a subtle way. The only complaint I had was its plot relied on coincidence a little too heavily but then I suppose life is like that. I can't recommend this highly enough and I will be seeking out more of Ms Pym's work soon. Though probably not all at once so as to prolong the pleasure.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I've been a huge fan of Barbara Pym for decades; I probably read this book fifteen or twenty years ago, but only had a hazy recollection of the plot when I picked it up. So I take the wry humor and merciless observation for granted. This time around, I had a lot less patience with the British Empire. The men are all hapless and the women are pathetic, or maybe it's the other way around. The main character, who ought to know better, has nothing better to do than to stalk a man--and his whole exte I've been a huge fan of Barbara Pym for decades; I probably read this book fifteen or twenty years ago, but only had a hazy recollection of the plot when I picked it up. So I take the wry humor and merciless observation for granted. This time around, I had a lot less patience with the British Empire. The men are all hapless and the women are pathetic, or maybe it's the other way around. The main character, who ought to know better, has nothing better to do than to stalk a man--and his whole extended family--because he happens to be better-looking than the majority of British men. You get the impression that the English are so inbred and underemployed that the rare attractive man causes seismic waves of lunatic feminine frenzy wherever he goes. I am terribly afraid that my comfort novels are comforting no longer. Recent re-readings of P.D. James and Dorothy L. Sayers have produced the same feelings of irritation and unease--at the portrayal of a society so sexist, classist, economically unsustainable and psychologically bonkers that you start rooting for the murderers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    cloudyskye

    Once again, what a pleasure to withdraw into Barbara Pym's world of ordinary people to whom nothing much happens but to whose joys and grievances one can relate so well. Like enjoying a cup of tea and a (chocolate) biscuit while sitting in a comfy old chair. Or like a time machine trip to early 1960s London, simply wonderful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    On the cover of my paperback is a quotation from AL Rowse: "I could go on reading her for ever." I sort of feel the same way about Barbara Pym. She's impossible to get tired of. It's that dry, keen-eyed, wholly unsentimental voice I like. Here we have a small circle of characters, centring on Dulcie Mainwaring, an intelligent single woman in her 30s, a bit lonely but not at all pathetic, not too sure what kind of life she might have, what kind of life might be available to her. The ending, with On the cover of my paperback is a quotation from AL Rowse: "I could go on reading her for ever." I sort of feel the same way about Barbara Pym. She's impossible to get tired of. It's that dry, keen-eyed, wholly unsentimental voice I like. Here we have a small circle of characters, centring on Dulcie Mainwaring, an intelligent single woman in her 30s, a bit lonely but not at all pathetic, not too sure what kind of life she might have, what kind of life might be available to her. The ending, with its marvellous openendedness, might annoy some people who like their fiction to end with all its threads tidily knotted up, but I liked it. Life just does keep going on, doesn't it?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    What a lovely and funny book. So very very british. My favorite lines were: "The silence in the room was broken only by the sound of water being poured out into glasses -- perhaps the most dismal sound heard on an English holiday." "Sitting aimlessly in bedrooms- often on the bed itself- is another characteristic feature of the English holidays. The meal was over and it was only twenty five past seven. 'The evening stretches before us,' Viola said gloomily."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    I'm reasonably certain that no one has ever referred to a novel by Barbara Pym as "action packed," but there is a quiet elegance to the way she writes about people making do in lives they had not envisioned living. And she's wise and funny in her observations of various characters' foibles and pretensions. I'll be back for more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    Barbara Pym wrote six novels between 1950 and 1961, ending with No Fond Return of Love. Then reading trends changed and publishers stopped being interested in her. She had a resurgence in the late 1970s when the Times Literary Supplement named her as one of the most underrated novelists of the century. She wrote three further novels before her death in 1980. Subsequently four other unpublished novels were also published. I had never heard of her until a couple of years ago but this is now the fo Barbara Pym wrote six novels between 1950 and 1961, ending with No Fond Return of Love. Then reading trends changed and publishers stopped being interested in her. She had a resurgence in the late 1970s when the Times Literary Supplement named her as one of the most underrated novelists of the century. She wrote three further novels before her death in 1980. Subsequently four other unpublished novels were also published. I had never heard of her until a couple of years ago but this is now the fourth book of hers that I have read. I adore her books. They are witty and observant social comedies set around village or suburban life. You know the characters will drink lots of tea, you know there will be a jumble sale, you know there will be vicars and at least one anthropologist. She includes in-jokes that only her fans will get: for example at one stage in this novel, one of the characters sees a tattered book called "Some Tame Gazelle" - which was Pym's debut novel. No Fond Return of Love centres on 31 year old Dulcie Mainwaring whose engagement ended a year ago and who has accepted that she will probably remain a spinster. She meets and is immensely taken with an older, handsome writer (Alywin Forbes) who unfortunately has a taste for much younger women (including Dulcie's 18 year old niece). In fact, the novel is full of people who suffer unrequited love - some of whom will find it over the course of the book, and some of whom will not. Dulcie is a delightful character. She is immensely curious (even nosy) about the people around her and she loves pondering philosophical dilemmas. She reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith's character Isabel Dalhousie, but she's more interesting. She is of course far too good for Aylwin, but you hope for her to get her happy ending nonetheless. The edition that I read was published in 1961 and includes a racist slur that is referred to as being a dog's name. I hope/assume that has been changed in more recent editions.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    *3.5 stars. "What a pity we can't make a cup of Ovaltine, was her last conscious thought. Life's problems are often eased by hot milky drinks" (23). "Probably because of her connection with haberdashery she had a passion for small gadgets and 'daintiness', as she put it, which was encouraged by the advertisements on commercial television with their emphasis on this aspect of life. She did not care for men, with their roughness and lack of daintiness, though the clergy were excepted, unless they sm *3.5 stars. "What a pity we can't make a cup of Ovaltine, was her last conscious thought. Life's problems are often eased by hot milky drinks" (23). "Probably because of her connection with haberdashery she had a passion for small gadgets and 'daintiness', as she put it, which was encouraged by the advertisements on commercial television with their emphasis on this aspect of life. She did not care for men, with their roughness and lack of daintiness, though the clergy were excepted, unless they smoked pipes" (33). “Yet, although she was laughing, there was a small ache in her heart as she remembered him. Perhaps it is sadder to have loved somebody ‘unworthy’, and the end of it is the death of such a very little thing, like a child’s coffin, she thought confusedly” (54). “She had given them only the shabbiest of her mother’s clothes, the best having gone to the Distressed Gentlewomen” (59). *I like that phrase: “Distressed Gentlewomen.” “What is the use of noticing such details? Dulcie asked herself. It isn’t as if I were a novelist or a private detective. Presumably such a faculty might be said to add to one’s enjoyment of life, but so often what one observed was neither amusing nor interesting, but just upsetting" (60). “An anonymous call of a scurrilous nature? Were calls of this kind made by people who had an odd ten minutes to fill in before arriving somewhere?” (60-61). "No doubt, like all men connected with the Church--his own brother Neville included--the organist would be at ease with ladies. He could see the phrase--At Ease with Ladies--as the title of a novel or even a biography" (83). "What should he write? Something non-committal--the sort of thing one wrote to a woman who was undertaking the arduous task of making an index to a book" (84). “...or would it seem stupid and affected in the dark suburban hall, with the macintoshes and old shoes huddled together in the peculiarly unaesthetic hat stand?” (84-85). “Life was at its tricks again, but this was sharper cruelty than Miss Lord’s discomfiture over the baked beans” (88). *I love this sentence. “ ‘Shall we start at the beginning and go stolidly round?’ Viola asked” (89). “...turning away from Viola, who was gazing at one of the pictures with the dutiful, slightly glazed expression of a woman who has been shown what to look for by a distractingly handsome man” (91). "Bereavement was in some ways the most comfortable kind of misery, for there would always be somebody to urge; the unhappiness of love was usually more lonely because so often concealed from others" (101). "It was sad, she thought, how women longed to be needed and useful and how seldom most them really were" (103). "…she tried to picture him, young and eager, perhaps riding a scooter" (104). “What does it mean, being ‘only human after all’? she asked herself. It was generally said of a person who had committed some indiscretion or even sin” (106). “At Christmas, Dulcie thought, People seemed to lose their status as individuals in their own right and became, as it were, diminished in stature, mere unit sin families, when for the rest of the year they were bold and original and often the kind of people it is impossible to imagine having such ordinary everyday things as parents. Christmas put people in their places, sent them back to the nursery or cradle, almost” (109). "So it was all right to know about Neville and quite unnecessary to reveal that she had made a special journey to the public library to look him up in Crockford" (128). "Dulcie, while appearing to listen, was going over in her mind the various ways in which a clergyman son might be 'rather troublesome' "(129). "…one or two as yet unidentified young men who wore bowler hats and looked rather alike, so that Laurel thought there might be any number of them or only one" (131). "Marian's little pointed toes and stiletto heels, so precariously supporting the fluffy orange bundle of her body…" (133-134). "Dark oil paintings, sinister because the subjects were not easily discernible, adorned the walls" (134). " 'People always know where they are with me,' she would say rather smugly; it never occurred to here that people might not always want to know such things" (136). "What might not have happened had she not chosen to arrive at that moment! And in a library, too, surrounded by great literature!" (138). "Dulcie felt, averting her eyes as one of the servers began to remove his cassock and put on a very secular-looking leather jacket. One should not perhaps ever witness the change from the sacred to the profane, and how very profane it seemed when she noticed that another server was wearing jeans" (147). "The window was full of daffodils and irises, with a few early tulips and presumably late chrysanthemums" (165). "In a sense, Dulcie felt as if she had created her and that she had not come up to expectations, like a character in a book who had failed to come alive, and how many people in life, if one transferred them to fiction just as they were, would fail to do that!" (167-168). "There might be special vintages recommended for drinking in the bedrooms of unlicensed hotels" (173). "She would not be content with the quiet life he liked to lead, and she might mock at the way he liked to sit wearing his kilt in the evenings" (204-205). " 'It was one of the first things my wife got rid of. She can't bear stone animals of any kind'" (207). " 'She's a lecturer at the London School of Economics,' the young man went on, hardly explaining her abhorrence of stone animals, Aylwin thought" (207). "He ordered a Guinness, feeling that he had need of the qualities it was said to give" (208). "Here every building was repellent; there was nothing upon which the eye could dwell with pleasure" (211-212). "And then there was that china donkey, Dulcie remembered. Could she really have any kind of bond with somebody who had thought it sweet?" (220). " 'Yes, after breakfast is an awkward time in a hotel,' Dulcie said. 'One has no right to exist between the hours of half past nine and twelve. So much work is going on that it makes one feel guilty'" (221).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathrin

    Oh what a surprise this book was for me. I wonder if this was the inspiration for the Dalhousie novels, because it reminded me a good bit of those musings.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Format: Real Live Book Narrated By: NA Original Publication Year: 1961 Genre(s): Fiction Series: NA Awards: None Recommended subtitle: Techniques for stalking a very handsome man. I was a bit wrong-footed by No Fond Return of Love. About a year ago, I read and loved Pym’s Excellent Women. I went on and on about it and recommended it to everyone I know. I started this book excited and expecting something similar and I got it. Sort of. In many ways it is very similar right down to the vague romantic en Format: Real Live Book Narrated By: NA Original Publication Year: 1961 Genre(s): Fiction Series: NA Awards: None Recommended subtitle: Techniques for stalking a very handsome man. I was a bit wrong-footed by No Fond Return of Love. About a year ago, I read and loved Pym’s Excellent Women. I went on and on about it and recommended it to everyone I know. I started this book excited and expecting something similar and I got it. Sort of. In many ways it is very similar right down to the vague romantic ending, but it had a very different atmosphere due in part to a cast of thoroughly bemusing characters. Dulcie Mainwaring is a thirty-something professional indexer who has just been dumped by her fiancé. In an attempt to shake off the bad feelings she decides to attend a professional conference and there encounters Viola Dace, a rather cynical and lackluster middle-aged woman, and Aylwin Forbes, an editor and very handsome middle-aged man. There is something between Viola and Aylwin; in fact Aylwin’s wife has just left him because she caught him kissing Viola. But Aylwin doesn’t seem interested in Viola and by the end of the conference Dulcie’s curiosity about him has been thoroughly piqued. Dulcie and Viola become rather perfunctory friends, not really seeming to like each other much, and Viola even moves in with Dulcie for a time. Dulcie also begins to stalk Aylwin, there’s really no other way to put it; she tracks down his Mother-in-Laws house and makes a point to walk by, she figures out who his vicar brother is and goes to the church gleaning information about him from the housekeeper. The book culminates in she and Viola booking a holiday at the hotel Aylwin’s Mother owns. In the meantime Aylwin thinks he’s in love with Dulcie’s 19 year old niece. To be frank none of these characters were terribly likeable. Dulcie the main protagonist comes closest of course but even her behavior is a little hard to explain. She has just been rejected and seems destined for a life of utterly boring spinsterhood; her life is rather empty and she also has a disposition for research. Her interest in and instinct to investigate Aylwin can be somewhat understood, but then… she falls in love with him. Throughout the book Aylwin continues to become more and more ridiculous – vain, fickle, emotionally immature and even somewhat cold. He treats Dulcie with indifference. Dulcie developing feelings for him seems utterly bizarre. However, I was saved from being completely discontented with the book by what I imagine are Pym’s signature strengths. She seems to have a perfect understanding and way of portraying all the foibles of being an imperfect human being. There are so many times in her books as she describes some inane human reaction or interaction that I find myself thinks “YES, that is EXACTLY how it is…how it feels.” The main characters in both of the books that I have read by her are so utterly conventional but not at all uninteresting. They have hidden depths of quirky humor and self-awareness. They are unique and individual without really trying which is I guess why I can forgive Dulcie her bizarre affection for Aylwin. Finally, Pym’s books are full of an understated humor that warms the cockles of my heart. It is hard to provide an example of it because it’s so integrated in the story but here’s one attempt: Dulcie and Viola having a conversation about Aylwin and his estranged wife Marjorie: “That’s where Marjorie Forbes has failed - not being able to share Aylwin’s interests.” “Well she hardly could if the interests were other women,” said Dulcie, suddenly frivolous. “Those are the kinds of interests wives really can’t be expected to share….” Indeed, Dulcie, Indeed. Final Verdict: I am still enamored of Barbara Pym’s writing and that made this book enjoyable despite some less than sympathetic characters.

  24. 4 out of 5

    ladydusk

    Library. By far my favorite Pym to date - I guess 4 stars has a range. (I've also read Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence) In this book, Pym plays with book lovers, writers, observers. Dulcie ("sweet") and Viola (given name: "Violet") become unlikely roommates and companions. Dulcie becomes an interested observer of one of the speakers, Aylwin Forbes. Most of the book is her observations, seeking information, and interest in anyone involved with his life. Learning about him without really knowi Library. By far my favorite Pym to date - I guess 4 stars has a range. (I've also read Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence) In this book, Pym plays with book lovers, writers, observers. Dulcie ("sweet") and Viola (given name: "Violet") become unlikely roommates and companions. Dulcie becomes an interested observer of one of the speakers, Aylwin Forbes. Most of the book is her observations, seeking information, and interest in anyone involved with his life. Learning about him without really knowing him. We see them interact rarely. Pym talks quite a lot about watching life from the outside. Dulcie resides in the suburbs, not in the midst of the action. She works on her own terms from home, not an office. "It seemed -- though [Dulcie] did not say this to Viola -- so much safer and more comfortable to live in the lives of other people -- to observe their joys and sorrows with detachment as if one were watching a film or a play." (pg 108) Dulcie, while detached from real life in many ways, is a detail person. Probably why she is good at her work and can do it on her own terms (we almost never see this). She is systematic on her quest to understand Aylwin Forbes, expanding her circle of knowledge from what is printed to his estranged wife to his brother and eventually to his mother and father. 'People blame one for dwelling on trivialities,'" said Dulcie, 'but life is made up of them. And if we've had one great sorrow or one great love, then who shall blame us if we only want the trivial things?' Viola murmured something, but Dulcie knew that she did not really understand. Lately she had begun to admit to herslef that Viola had turned out to be a disappointment. In a sense, Dulcie felt as if she had created her and that she had not come up to expectations, like a character in a book who had failed to come alive, and how many people in life, if one transferred them to fiction just as they were, would fail to do that! (pg 167-168) That quote continues from Dulcie's love of the detail into her view of others. Pym has Dulcie seeing people as though reading a novel and explaining to us as those reading a novel how we can see characters as more or less than they are. One final quote: 'It's impossible to imagine some things,' said Viola wearily. She was thinking of the little bottle of gin in the bedroom cupboard. 'The extraordinary thing is,' Dulcie went on, 'that these things [details about Aylwin's life] have always been so, and yet it's only our knowing about them that has made them real.' 'You could say that about anythying,' Viola objected. 'It's the fourth dimension, isn't it, or something like that. I wish sometimes that I knew about philosophy. Did you see that portrait on the staircase?' Dulcie was quickly down to earth again. 'Couldn't you see a likeness to Aylwin there?' (pg 193-194, emphasis mine) There's a neighbor in Dulcie's suburb, a man from Brazil, who is often observing the goings on and intrigued by the Englishness of it all. There are flowers in almost every scene. There are other romances that could be discussed. There are references to Mansfield Park, my favorite Austen. The book has so much in it and is so beautifully written. Still not a lot of plot, but an enjoyable read and fun to consider.

  25. 5 out of 5

    JacquiWine

    Earlier in the year, I had a lot of fun with Barbara Pym’s much-loved novel, Excellent Women (1952). It came as part of a set of three Pym novels from The Book People, so when Simon reviewed No Fond Return of Love (also included in my purchase), this sounded like the ideal follow-on read. The protagonist in No Fond Return (1961) is Dulcie Mainwaring, a thirty-something-year-old spinster who works as an indexer and proof-reader from her home in the London suburbs. As the novel opens, Dulcie has ju Earlier in the year, I had a lot of fun with Barbara Pym’s much-loved novel, Excellent Women (1952). It came as part of a set of three Pym novels from The Book People, so when Simon reviewed No Fond Return of Love (also included in my purchase), this sounded like the ideal follow-on read. The protagonist in No Fond Return (1961) is Dulcie Mainwaring, a thirty-something-year-old spinster who works as an indexer and proof-reader from her home in the London suburbs. As the novel opens, Dulcie has just arrived at a ‘learned conference’ for indexers and suchlike, a gathering she hopes will give her an opportunity to meet some new people and to observe something of the lives of others, even if it’s only for a day or two. (A few months earlier, Dulcie had broken up with her former fiancé, Maurice, a separation that has left her feeling rejected and mindful of her position as a somewhat lonely spinster; hence her decision to come to the meeting in the hope of experiencing something a little different.) On the first evening of the conference, Dulcie meets Viola Dace, a fellow indexer who happens to be staying in the room next door. At first sight, the two women present quite a contrast to one another – Dulcie looks rather dowdy in her tweed suit and brogues while Viola appears more confident with her black dress and rather unruly hair. As the two women get talking, it becomes clear that Viola knows one of the speakers at the conference, the rather handsome editor, Dr Aylwin Forbes. Here’s a short excerpt from their conversation – it’s a beautifully observed scene, characteristic of Pym’s ability to convey so much during a brief exchange. Viola named the journal which Aylwin Forbes edited. ‘I happen to know him rather well,’ she added. ‘Oh?’ ‘He and I were once…’ Viola hesitated, teasing out the fringe of her black and silver stole. ‘I see,’ Dulcie said, but of course she did not see. What was it they were once, or had been once to each other? Lovers? Colleagues? Editor and assistant editor? Or had he merely seized her in his arms in some dusty library in a convenient corner by the card index catalogues one afternoon in spring? Impossible to tell, from Viola’s guarded hint. How irritating it sometimes was, the delicacy of women! ‘Is he married?’ asked Dulcie stoutly. ‘Oh, of course – in a sense, that is,’ said Viola impatiently. Dulcie nodded. People usually were married, and how often it was ‘in a sense’. (pg. 7) It turns out that Viola has a bit of history with Aylwin, having fallen for him while she was working on the index for one of his books at some point in the not-too-distant past. Even though very little actually happened between the two of them, Aylwin’s wife, Marjorie, must have found out about Viola as she ended up leaving her husband to move back in with her mother. With Aylwin effectively separated from Marjorie, Viola hopes to rekindle the relationship; Aylwin, on the other hand, seems more intent on avoiding Viola as far as possible. When she realises that Aylwin may not be terribly keen to get involved with her again, Viola turns to Dulcie for moral support. Like Mildred in Excellent Women, Dulcie is one of those reliable types who can be called upon in moments of distress, often putting the needs of others before her own, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. To read the rest of my review, please click here: https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2016...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    3.5 stars This started out really promising, but I don't know if it was the reader or the book who lost steam about halfway through. But I found myself getting antsy and just wanting it to end. So that extra half star was for that stellar beginning. :-)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jade

    I really admire authors who can write novels that will seem a bit rambling or disjointed, and then they'll wrap everything up neatly within the last few pages, and it will all seem to make sense somehow. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did this with Americanah (not at all the same kind of book, I know), and now Barbara Pym's done it with No Fond Return of Love. Although in this case, of course, the author is basically telling the reader, "Look, there's precedent for this kind of thing in literature, so I really admire authors who can write novels that will seem a bit rambling or disjointed, and then they'll wrap everything up neatly within the last few pages, and it will all seem to make sense somehow. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did this with Americanah (not at all the same kind of book, I know), and now Barbara Pym's done it with No Fond Return of Love. Although in this case, of course, the author is basically telling the reader, "Look, there's precedent for this kind of thing in literature, so if others have done it, why not me?" I suppose that's the kind of thing Barbara Pym just might do, which makes her either delightful or annoying, I'm not sure yet. I'm pretty sure I liked the book though. Part of the reason why, I suppose, is that I like to think I'm above Anglophilia but I'm really a sucker for stories that take place in this sort of idealised mid-century England you can sometimes find in Agatha Christie mysteries. I find it completely baffling that the events in No Fond Return of Love take place in the same place and at the same time as Bad Penny Blues, but I suppose that's part of the interest of a book like this, too -- and why it lay forgotten for a time, and why it's popular again now. The world it describes has its appeal again, now that we don't have to live in it. Anyway, I love Dulcie Mainwaring so much. She's awkward, she overthinks everything and she has absolutely no self-confidence. On the one hand, I feel that the only way things can ever go well for a person like that is for her to be entirely fictional, but on the other she's too much like me and she gives me so much hope. I don't feel that the comparisons to Jane Austen are entirely undeserved in this respect. Dulcie Mainwaring is a poor thing who's more intelligent than pretty much anyone else, and you end up rooting for her so hard (and, inevitably, feeling that whoever she ends up marrying will Not Deserve Her, but that's just the fate of 99% of literary ladies, unfortunately). And, just like many Austen books, No Fond Return of Love is freaking funny too. Can't-keep-a-straight-face-reading-on-public-transportation funny. Since it's also a quick read, I feel like at this point you've run out of excuses not to pick this up, so do that already.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Dulcie Mainwaring meets Viola Dace at a "learned conference." They are both single women working on the fringes of academia - indexers, proofreaders, bibliographers, librarians (like me), that sort. The focus of the conference for both women becomes the dreamy looking (and self absorbed) Aylwin Forbes, editor of a scholarly journal, who is giving a paper on "Some problems of an editor." Dulcie, an insightful and inquisitive student of human nature, finds much of interest in the man. Viola knows Dulcie Mainwaring meets Viola Dace at a "learned conference." They are both single women working on the fringes of academia - indexers, proofreaders, bibliographers, librarians (like me), that sort. The focus of the conference for both women becomes the dreamy looking (and self absorbed) Aylwin Forbes, editor of a scholarly journal, who is giving a paper on "Some problems of an editor." Dulcie, an insightful and inquisitive student of human nature, finds much of interest in the man. Viola knows him, having done some research for him in the recent past and fallen in love with him in the course of it, something that Aylwin now finds decidedly awkward. There is a host of other characters - Dulcie's ex-fiance, Maurice, who works in an art gallery and who left her (and broke her heart) because he wasn't "worthy of her," as he put it; Dulcie's eccentric neighbors, which include an older woman with blue-rinsed hair who frequents spiritualists; Dulcie's 18-year-old niece, Laurel, who comes to stay with her for a time as she establishes a life of her own in London; and Aylwin's vapid, estranged wife and atrocious mother-in-law, among others. Dulcie is the filter through which most of the story is told and it is richly rewarding to listen in on her ruminations, whether she is admiring "the Pre-Raphaelite perfection" of the pears ripening on the tree outside her bedroom window or Aylwin's beauty, "like a Greek marble, or something dug up in the garden of an Italian villa, the features a little blunted, with the charm of being not quite perfect." I could listen to Dulcie think all day long. Five stars.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Belinda

    One of the better Barbara Pym novels. Dulcie is satisfyingly astute yet willing, naive yet sharp. The hero, Aylwin, is self-absorbed, good-looking, and daft, but intelligent. Poor Dulcie! Sometimes I just wish BP wrote decent men who lived up to the kind, clever, observant women in her books. The silly ones, like Viola, manage to find someone in the end - unsuitable sorts who seem to be suitable after a rather brief association. The very clever ones sometimes don't find anyone at all, but their me One of the better Barbara Pym novels. Dulcie is satisfyingly astute yet willing, naive yet sharp. The hero, Aylwin, is self-absorbed, good-looking, and daft, but intelligent. Poor Dulcie! Sometimes I just wish BP wrote decent men who lived up to the kind, clever, observant women in her books. The silly ones, like Viola, manage to find someone in the end - unsuitable sorts who seem to be suitable after a rather brief association. The very clever ones sometimes don't find anyone at all, but their meetings with idiot men result in happy singleness. It's all very much a lucky bag. And that's the charm of BP's novels, you wonder right up to the last page whether the "excellent" woman in this particular novel will end up "happily married" to some egg, but hopefully an egg who gives her a modicum of pleasure (although you doubt it). Meanwhile the books are so well written, so charmingly quick at reading people, that you can't help but enjoy the recreation of the little dance of life. Somehow, despite their seeming lightness, you end up thinking about how life (your life?) reflects her books. The friendships and relationships and jobs that start from trivia and tiny beginnings and then impact on your own life for many years. Yes, Pym was clever and (note it) never married.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This book is a delightful treat! When I think of Barbara Pym and all her lovely novels, I tend to forget this one but after reading it again, I'm in love. This novel opens with a learned conference where two lonely women, Dulcie and Viola, meet one another. They are both in their 30s and each is recovering from a botched love affair. Soon all the Pym elements are involved--vicars and church gossip, competing love interests and always the most astute observations about our fellow man which are de This book is a delightful treat! When I think of Barbara Pym and all her lovely novels, I tend to forget this one but after reading it again, I'm in love. This novel opens with a learned conference where two lonely women, Dulcie and Viola, meet one another. They are both in their 30s and each is recovering from a botched love affair. Soon all the Pym elements are involved--vicars and church gossip, competing love interests and always the most astute observations about our fellow man which are delivered in an unceremonious way. Classic Pym passage: 'Here's Eagle House but it doesn't say anything special about it. The Anchorage "bright, Christian atmosphere"-should we try that?' 'We might' said Viola doubtfully. 'Yes' Dulcie agreed, equally doubtful. 'Why is it that one suspects a place that actually claims to have a bright Christian atmosphere? What is one afraid of?' 'A certain amount of discomfort-and that Christianity will manifest itself in unpleasant and embarrassing ways,' said Viola. This book has now gone from a forgotten Pym of mine to one of my favorites!

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