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No Fond Return of Love Paperback – July 1, 2002
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Observation is a major theme of the book and Dulcie (although she does indexes and isn't a "creative" writer) is an avid people-watcher. Sometimes her hobby becomes almost an obsession and she'll go to great (and very amusing) lengths to get information about those she becomes interested in. She worries that she prefers the role of observer to that of an active participant in life, but she also realizes the advantages of remaining aloof. She's an unusual character - conventional, but eccentric; shy, but totally lacking in self-consciousness. I think that Pym put a great deal of herself into Dulcie and she's an appealing heroine.
There's "romance" although sometimes it's not very romantic. Although a plain woman and a life-long spinster, Pym was usually "involved" (that's the term her biographical information uses, so I'll adopt it) with some man or another. She believed that happiness is not just for the young, model-beautiful heroine marrying the handsome billionaire, but for all of us. When her characters find love, it's particularly satisfying for us, because we see ourselves in them. Her novels are books to be savored and re-read.
One of Pym's most inventive comedies, NO FOND RETURN OF LOVE is much concerned with the way in which we invent stories about the people whom we live near, and how those fantasies can be even more sustaining for than our actual relations with these people. Dulcie and Viola become stalkers of Aylwin Forbes with little compunction or fear; it seems perfectly natural to them to base their friendship on trading information they've unearthed about him or on staking out his mother-in-law's house together. But most of the other characters are themselves fantasists too: Aylwin has constructed plans of his own around Dulcie's niece Laurel, for example. The novel is an extended commentary on metafiction, and thus it seems of little surprise when other characters from Pym's previous novels begin popping up for little cameos at the novel's end (though this does go on for too long), as does Pym herself. While not as funny as LESS THAN ANGELS nor as beautifully constructed as EXCELLENT WOMEN, this remains one of Pym's best books.
For me, one of the tests of a good book is wondering what might happen afterwards to the characters. Will Viola's husband-to-be be sorry he married someone who can't cook & is a sloppy housekeeper? Will Dulcie be able to forget that Aylwin was interested in her niece? and so on