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?