No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

no fond

No Fond Return of Love is another enjoyable Pym novel, but has elements that were slightly surprising to me after having previously read four of her more conventional novels. It was published in 1961 and has the feel and flavor of that era – I think Pym was really trying to ‘modernize’ her characters and plots to align with the new attitudes emerging during this time period.

The main character is another single, capable, respectable woman named Dulcie Mainwaring. She is an indexer for academic authors and as the novel opens she is attending an indexing conference where she meets Aylwin Forbes, a charming and handsome author, who she immediately becomes obsessed with. She has a habit of observing and researching various people she becomes interested in – these days I think we would probably call it stalking, but it is pretty harmless here. She finds out where Aylwin lives, where his brother preaches and even where his estranged wife resides. At the conference she also forms an interesting relationship with Viola Dace, another indexer who is prickly and odd, to say the least. Viola somehow ends up moving in with Dulcie and Dulcie’s teenage niece whom Forbes becomes attracted to. The various ins and outs of all of their love lives collide and lead to some humorous situations that also leave the reader a tiny bit sad.

One of the main differences of this novel to the other Pym’s I’ve read is that Dulcie is not a churchgoer. I have to admit I was slightly put out when I realized this because I love reading about the clergy and life surrounding the church so much. Fairly or not, I knew that this wasn’t going to be at the top of my Pym favorites list due to that. I also found the writing in No Fond Return of Love to be clunkier than in her other novels and the characters were less engaging. My favorite part of the book was when Dulcie meets Rodney and Wilmet Forsyth, the main characters in A Glass of Blessings, at a museum. Unfortunately, though, it only pointed out to me how wonderful her characters can be and how the characters in No Fond Return of Love fall short of her best.

Of the six Pym novels I’ve read this year, No Fond Return of Love is my least favorite. It just didn’t dazzle me like the others have.

Have you been disappointed by any of your favorite author’s books?

22 thoughts on “No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

  1. jessicabookworm

    I think it is inevitable if you are an avid reader that you will come across a book by a beloved author that will disappoint. It may only be a minor fault but you will notice it all the more because you loved previous books so much. This year I was disappointed with a novel by Linda Gillard a favourite author of mine, simply because a character made a choice I really didn’t like. Nothing to do with Gillard’s writing per say but because I loved all her previous characters it really stuck out.


    1. You’re right, Jessica, it’s too much to ask that every book by our favorites authors live up to high expectations. I’m disappointed, but still glad I read it.

      I’ve heard lots about Linda Gillard and I’d love to read her some day!


  2. Charlie

    A complex set of acquaintances! I think it’s more than fair to find yourself not enjoying a book so much if it’s not what you’ve come to love about the author. Sometimes difference works, and it’s good to branch out (thinking of the author here) but when there’s something specific you love that’s natural. 6 of one author in a year is awesome, I’m guessing you like her a great deal!


    1. I love her! Her characters and settings are simple, yet she writes about complex feelings, always using humor and wit to punctuate the common hurts of life. Next year is her centenary and I hope to read the rest of her books over that time.


  3. Miss Bibliophile

    This review of yours came just in time for me. After my own first lukewarm experience with Pym, I’ve been planning on trying Excellent Women next, since it was so highly recommended by you and others. I’ve been having a hard time tracking it down from the library, though, and had been thinking of just jumping into No Fond Return of Love, one of my recent used book acquisitions. Now I think I’ll hold off until I can read Excellent Women first.


  4. heavenali

    I enjoyed No Fond return of love, and am looking forward to reading/re-reading Pym next year for the Centenary. Which Pym do you think is your favourite.


    1. I’m really looking forward to reading the 7 books I haven’t read yet next year – thanks for letting me know about the centenary event!

      My favorite Pym so far is Excellent Women, followed closely by A Glass of Blessings.


  5. Lisa

    I do hate it when that happens with a favorite author, but like Jessica says above, I do think it’s inevitable, particularly when an author has a long list of books. You know how much I love Georgette Heyer, but I’ve actually thrown out a copy of one of her books, I dislike it so much!


  6. Anna

    John Grisham was one of my favourite authors in my teens and I remember reading one and HATING it and I was really bitter about it. I think it was a painted house? or a …. house?

    I’m re-reading Little Women for #ShareAdvent and am absolutely loving every word. It’s so nice to revisit your favourites isn’t it?! x


    1. I can see how A Painted House would disappoint you if you love John Grisham. Isn’t it about baseball and growing up in Arkansas?

      Little Women is such a fantastic book – enjoy your re-read!


  7. Cat

    I agree it’s inevitable that a favourite author will most likely disappoint sometimes. I’m saving my only other Barbara Pym, An Unsuitable Attachment, for the June reading week but I’m interested to see what it’s like because it was originally rejected by the publishers.


    1. I just read An Unsuitable Attachment (my thoughts coming soon) and really liked it. It has some fascinating characters, librarians and a trip to Rome. Hard to believe it was rejected!



    I still haven’t read any Barbara Pym! I will make it my 2013 resolution. 🙂

    I used to think I really liked Kate Atkinson (after reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum) but then I read Case Histories and it was dreadful. I’m afraid to revisit BtSatM now.


    1. I hope you do read Pym – 2013 is perfect as it is the year of her centenary!

      I liked Case Histories! But I didn’t like the other books that followed in that series. Now I am curious to read Behind the Scenes at the Museum to see how it compares.


  9. Katrina

    I liked all of Kate Atkinson’s books too until I read When Will There Be Good News – it was so depressing! I love Angela Thirkell but some of her books are so much better than others – then again, it might just have been the mood I was in at the time which didn’t match up with the books.


  10. Sunday Taylor

    I haven’t read this one, and it sounds like I don’t need to. I agree with you about enjoying Pym’s churchgoing characters and the stories about the clergy and that world — the jumble sales, decorating the church for holidays, and other matters of importance to her characters. I have always loved the story in Excellent Women of how Mildred chose her church when she first moved to London, and how Julian (the rector) and his sister became her closest friends. I didn’t know that there will be a centenary for Pym next year.


    1. I love that story, too, and really enjoy reading about the rituals and traditions surrounding the church. There is a vicar in No Fond Return of Love and Dulcie does attend church a few times, but it doesn’t play a big part in her life.

      I didn’t know about the centenary, either, until I read about it on My Porch and heavenali.


  11. Karen K.

    I know the feeling, I have a lot more Edith Wharton left to read but I fear I’ve read all the best stuff.

    I just finished Crampton Hodnet today and found it delightful, but I’ve only read one other Pym so far. I hope to read more next year for her centenary (sp?). Yesterday I found a blogger that’s hosting a readalong in 2013, a different Pym for each month, in order of publication, with two in June. Sounds tempting!


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