Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym

The Sweet Dove Died
Barbara Pym
4/5 stars

Leonora, beautiful, elegant, narcissistic, forms a relationship with Humphrey and his nephew James.  While she appreciates Humphrey's attentions, she finds the company of the much younger James to be more desirable, until his lover comes between them.

While reading the Sweet Dove Died, I was reminded of quote by Somerset Maugham regarding Jane Austen:
"Nothing very much happens in her books, and yet, when you come to the bottom of a page, you eagerly turn it to learn what will happen next. Nothing very much does and again you eagerly turn the page. The novelist who has the power to achieve this has the most precious gift a novelist can possess."
In this lightly comic book, the plot is minimal--nothing very much happens-- and yet the interest engendered by the characters compel the reader to continue to read.  The actions and reactions of these characters, particularly Leonora, were so believable that I couldn't be sure where the story would go.  The Sweet Dove Died is a satisfying exploration of various types of love, and yet Pym keeps her readers held at arms-length (like Leonora does her suitors) so there is little, if any emotional, involvement for the reader.  Excepting that sterile feeling, this is an excellent book, well worth reading.  (I would recommend, however, for new readers of Pym to start with Excellent Women.)

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