No Fond Return of Love: 2008 Book Challenge #1

One of my daughter’s teachers told her that all real readers are RE-readers, and as if to prove that point, my first book of 2008 is indeed a re-read, a wonderful novel by the fabulous Barbara Pym, No Fond Return of Love.

I first read this book more than twenty years ago. My grandmother discovered Barbara Pym (1913-1980) in her last years and passed a few paperbacks along to my mother and me. Then I went to work in a bookstore and began collecting her books in earnest. A winner of the Booker Prize, Barbara Pym was often compared to Jane Austen for her portrayal of British life from the post-WWII era on into the 1960’s. No Fond Return of Love, published in 1961 (the year I was born) tells the story of a woman in her early 30’s who has a love of researching other people’s lives. The book is amusing and literate and even contains a reference to Miss Austen (and one of my favorite books, at that). I also recently re-read (in late 2007) both Jane and Prudence and Excellent Women (now published in the Penguin Classics series).

I have enjoyed these books as a young woman, a 30ish stay-at-home mom and now I am loving them again at mid-life. (And I do believe they have survived bubble baths in three different decades!) Just wish the print in the paperbacks didn’t keep shrinking…

Pym understood the absurdity of love and expressed it with a wry gentleness and great intelligence. If you don’t know her books, I hope you’ll try one!

12 thoughts on “No Fond Return of Love: 2008 Book Challenge #1”

  1. Oh, re-reading favorite books is such a comfort. And I am always so pleased when I discover new tidbits the second (or third or fourth) time around!

  2. Yes, Barbara Pym was one of the greats, and one whose books I tag “Keepers” so they won’t go to the library book sale. It’s definitely time to re-read some!

  3. Have you tried Angela Thirkell? I adore her, and Verlyn Klinkenborg, a NY Times columnist, had a column discussing his passion for her last week. I nearly fell over–I thought only I loved her! She might be a new pleasure if you like Pym and Austen!

  4. I just stumbled onto your blog and started reading a bit of it. So funny – I just rediscovered Barbara Pym too. Just finished Quartet in Autumn (loved it) and am reading – A Few Green Leaves right now. Raad – Some Tame Gazelle in November while visiting my daughter in CT.
    Hope your daughter gets home soon and safe.

  5. You’ve piqued my interest, Songbird. Now I have two Pym novels on my bedside tables. I’m sure Babs, our English history major and major Anglophile, will love them too. Thanks!

  6. I’ve just finished rereading No Fond Return for the third or fourth time as well. I should put this in my own blog, but have tried to analyze why, much as I like this book, it could have been a whole lot better. The only dynamic character is Viola Dace. The whole story collapses in the final quarter. The catharsis is forced and unconvincing. What is there about Dulcie to hold the interest of any man? Needs more backbone. Quartet in Autumn is her best, although least comfortable book. My favorite is Less Than Angels. It’s the whole Pym millieu that is so great, somehow. The observations, the lack of any real occupation of the main characters, the rather meager environment of Post WWII Britain. I love it, but can’t say exactly why. Is this too long of a comment? Not used to doing this.

  7. Not at all, fellow traveler! I re-read Less Than Angels this winter, too, and loved it more than I remembered. When I read it as a very young woman, I was upset by the ending, but as a woman at mid-life I found it very human, on all sides.
    Love your email handle!

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