First beach read

Subtropical Storm Hermine largely missed Delmarva, but you’d never guess that based on how empty the beach has been.  Very high wind and rough surf are keeping the people who didn’t leave early off the beach.  I spent most of this morning sitting on the beach, wrapped in a hoodie and beach towel, reading the first of my beach books.

I’m sure I’ve read reviews of Barbara Pym before, or at least I recognized her name and associated it with English, post-war novels.  No Fond Return of Love, originally published in 1961 and reprinted in 2014, has a colorful cover that caught my eye at the UBS.

Dulcie Mainwaring 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 with Dulcie’s pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it might 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 . . .

The blurb is both technically accurate and not quite right.  And it’s hugely spoilerish.

The narration head hops A LOT.

On one hand, I enjoyed the window into post-WWII suburban London; in some ways the book is sort of Austen-ish in its observation of the lives of Dulcie, Viola, and everyone in their social orbit.  On the other hand, Dulcie and Viola seemed kind of creepy and stalkerish, looking up Aylwin’s brother and estranged wife and mother.  I’m not sure how to take the ending; it felt kind of backhanded and second-best. Meh.

Beyond that, a single line in the book made me really uncomfortable because it is blatantly racist and insulting.  One character is thinking about an imaginary dog named Ni**er or Rover.  The sentence brought me to a halt reading.  Then I had to Google that as a dog’s name (there was a famous black dog by that name, apparently).  Still makes me cringe.  I’m a little surprised it wasn’t edited in the new releases/versions.

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