Read The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym Online


Between the amorous antique dealer Humphrey and his good-looking nephew James glides the magnificent Leonora, delicate as porcelain, cool as ice. Can she keep James in her thrall? Or will he be taken from her by a lover, like Phoebe ...or Ned, the wicked American? 'A highly distinctive and - ultimately - charitable novel' - "Financial Times". 'Faultless' - "Guardian". 'HerBetween the amorous antique dealer Humphrey and his good-looking nephew James glides the magnificent Leonora, delicate as porcelain, cool as ice. Can she keep James in her thrall? Or will he be taken from her by a lover, like Phoebe ...or Ned, the wicked American? 'A highly distinctive and - ultimately - charitable novel' - "Financial Times". 'Faultless' - "Guardian". 'Her Characters are all meticulously impaled on the delicate pins of a wit that is as scrupulous as it is deadly' - "Observer". 'A coldly funny book' - "Sunday Telegraph". 'Highly distinctive ...the critics who have recently insisted on Miss Pym's too long neglected gifts have not been wrong' - "Financial Times"....

Title : The Sweet Dove Died
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780060805111
Format Type : Mass Market
Number of Pages : 208 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Sweet Dove Died Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-01-28 07:51

    ”Life is cruel and we do terrible things to each other.”Humphrey, a widowed antiques dealer, and his nephew James, who he is attempting to teach about the antiques trade, meet this elegant, aging beauty named Leonora Eyre at a book sale. Meeting such a woman at such a place filled Humphrey with horror. ”A book sale was certainly no place for a woman; had it been a sale of pictures or porcelain, fetching the sort of inflated prices that made headline news, or an evening sale--perhaps being televised--to which a woman could be escorted after being suitably wined and dined--that might have been another matter altogether.”Humphrey is really a perfect match for Leonora because they both appreciate the finer things in life, objects are in many ways more important to them and certainly more reliable than people. They both understand the same rules of engagement and enjoy the simple, but luxurious aspects of society. Fulfillment comes from having things...just so.James sees the situation a different way from his Uncle. ”James thought his uncle was making rather a fool of himself. Miss Eyre was certainly of a suitable age for Humphrey to marry, if that was what he wanted. though he had been a widower for so long now that it seemed unlikely he would wish to improve on the convenient arrangements he already had and take such a drastic step as marriage.”The his age. Still, on paper, this potential relationship looks like an alliance that could garner that elusive trinity of a sustainable relationship: security, common interest, and mutual attraction.Except that Miss Eyre likes James better. Is it so crazy? She is older, granted, but she has taken care of herself, men of all ages still notice her. And James, well he is as malleable as Binx Bolling, remember him from The Moviegoer. With just the right amount of maneuvering James will do what she wants him to do.Leonora would have made a brilliant Roman Field Commander. Her grasp of battlefield tactics are put on display as she eviscerates her rivals with cool precision; and yet, with her ultimate designs artfully concealed. Phoebe, the English Literature major, who seduced James on an excursion to the country was one such victim. James was rather confused about how a drink led to such a vigorous romp in bed, part of his Binx like behavior of just accepting what others want. I rather liked awkward Phoebe with her baggy clothes making her the spoil to Leonora’s stellar elegance. There is this scene I just have to share.”One of the village cats had come into the room and jumped up on top of the big old-fashioned radio set which Phoebe turned on, making music for herself and warmth for the animal. A symphony was being played and as Phoebe lay watching the cat she had the fancy that its spreading body was like a great empty wineskin or bladder being filled with Mendelssohn. She began to think of a poem she would write for James.”It seems whenever James leaves Leonora’s sight he falls in bed with someone. He takes a jaunt through Europe to look at antique shops as part of his training and meets a young, well lets look a little closer, maybe not so young American named Ned. He like Phoebe is an English Literature major studying the minor poems of Keats. When he meets Leonora he is better prepared for her tactics as he is a veteran of many doomed love affairs, bedroom dramas, and the lies and manipulations that it takes to have cake and eat it too. Ned quotes a bit of poetry to Leonora over tea. ”I had a dove and the sweet dove died;and I have thought it died of grievingO, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tiedWith a single thread of my own hand’s weaving.”What a civilized world these people live in threatening each other with poetry. The rest of us are such Neanderthal’s with our guns, knives, clubs, and fists. Human behavior is explored and exposed with a grace that cloaks the wicked stab of wit and the pain of those charmed, but left in the wake of cooling desires. No one escapes without at least a few twinges of remorse, even Ned, the shallow pool swimmer, doesn’t take his final leave of Leonora (over tea of course) without a feeling of being something less than he should be. What makes this book a small masterpiece is Barbara Pym’s ability to use humor, style, and her perceptive writer’s eye to blunt the very worst of emotional circumstances. I also thought how refreshing to read a book that accepts homosexual relationships without a hint of homophobia. In 1977 Pym was named the most underrated writer of the century. I think we can change that, don’t you think, at least in the Goodreads universe. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  • Sketchbook
    2019-01-20 07:43

    A dazzling Mozartian chamber piece. The mood seems light, the mannercivilized but the upshot is a jolt: perfectly chiseled words express profound insight into human nature. An unmarried near-50 London lady attends an auction where she meets a widowed antique dealer and his ambiguous nephew. The gent falls for her, but she only has eyes for chappy. 'One needed the company of young people...' The object of her hapless pash has an occasional girlfriend whose presence must be discouraged, then the odd couple can flirt over dinner. 'He could not tell her quite everything, and she liked to tease him about the parties he went to--.'Warning - danger ahead: he meets an experienced American lit teach whose handsome face 'revealed that life had left its mark.' Control, jealousy and gay promiscuity are tweaked with ironic understanding. 'The sherry they were drinking seemed actively hostile in its dryness, inhibiting speech, even feeling.' This subtle writer of posthumous US fame shows that people who need people are the unluckiest people in the world.

  • Teresa
    2019-01-29 04:46

    While sharply written, this Pym did not appeal to me as much as the only other I’ve read, Jane and Prudence. Its biting (and ultimately sad) cynicism was a bit more reminiscent of Muriel Spark than Jane Austen (whom Pym has been compared): that's not a complaint, as I enjoy both authors. Besides the Keats poem referenced in the title, Henry James’ Washington Square is also used as an overt allusion. The two polar-opposite rivals of the “elegant” (and very selfish) rival for the affections of a pliable young man work in the field of English literature, yet the young man is oblivious at any of these references, as he is of many other things—until it is too late.

  • Bruce
    2019-02-14 12:49

    The title is an allusion to a poem of Keats. What a skillfully written and wry novel this is. Pym has created a little world, populating it with distinctive characters, each of whom is at the same time endearing and appalling, and then set them loose to carom off each other in unpredictable ways, sometimes portraying them with an arch degree of sympathy, only to mercilessly skewer them a few pages later. The result is a pastiche of period piece with elements entirely contemporary, Pym herself sometimes writing like a reserved and fastidious society dame and sometimes entirely tongue-in-cheek, reminding me at times of Flannery O’Connor transported to London.The plot itself involves Leonora, a woman of a certain age who prefers to live life in a Victorian ambiance, who develops a highly artificial but emotionally constrictive relationship with a much younger and ineffectual James, who himself is both passive and generally ambivalent, vacillating in his sexual relationships between the passive and slovenly Phoebe and the suave and manipulatively sleezy Ned, at the same time thwarting his Uncle Humphrey’s attempts to court Leonora. Do the characters ultimately change? Not significantly, and at the end, each drifts off rather disconsolately, the only remaining verity being Humphrey’s continual pursuit. One alternately finds oneself being amused by these characters who are by turns absurd and poignant, and wanting to grab each by the shoulders and shaking them till their teeth rattle, ultimately aware that there is no satisfactory solution to any of the dilemmas they create and find themselves awash in.The story is told by an omniscient third person narrator and is filled with free indirect discourse. Pym’s descriptions of Victoriana and antiques are clever and her ear for dialogue precise and perceptive. She has imagined and made come alive a small network of relationships that reflect interactions easily generalized far beyond the confines of this little gem of a book, the reading of which provided a two-evening delight.

  • Teresa Proença
    2019-01-28 11:40

    "Eu tinha uma pomba e a doce pomba morreu; E pensava eu que morrera de mágoa; Oh, que podia magoá-la? As suas patas presas Por um fio de seda que eu próprio teci..."John KeatsEste poema é o melhor do livro...James tem 25 anos; duas namoradas e um namorado. Uma das namoradas tem cerca de 20 anos a outra mais de 50. Enfim, nada de especial...A premissa é muito interessante mas o seu desenvolvimento nem por isso...

  • Carol
    2019-02-12 06:40

    After reading this, I thought it would be a great to start an all-female punk rock band, and name the band Pym. Alas, I don't play guitar. Or drums. Or sing. And this book has nothing to do with punk rock. I have odd ideas at times.

  • Heather Bond
    2019-02-10 04:38

    Not the usual spinsters and vicars. A bit darker, still a wonderful read.

  • María
    2019-02-01 07:59

    Me ha encantado!! Ahora entiendo la fascinación que despierta esta autora últimamente, y es que tiene una forma de escribir tan sencilla y alegre y al mismo tiempo tan irónica, que me ha conquistado desde las primeras páginas.

  • Ali
    2019-01-28 06:37

    “I had a dove, and the sweet dove died;And I have thought it died of grieving;O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tiedWith a single thread of my own hand’s weaving.. ”(John Keats)The Sweet Dove Died does feel quite different to other Pym novels I think; there are I felt, touches of Elizabeth Taylor at times. There is less cosiness and rather more sharpness to this novel -and although there is mention of a jumble sale there are not the usual collection of either clergymen or anthropologists. At an antique fair the ageing elegantly dressed Leonora Eyre meets antique dealer Humphrey and his nephew James. Leonora is fragile and flirtatious with a love of Victoriana and beautiful things. Humphrey is instantly attracted to Leonora – while she is far more interested in James, despite the big age difference between them. Although Leonora’s intentions never progress beyond a small chaste kiss on the cheek – having done with “all that sort of thing” – she quickly places herself at the centre of James’s life.“Leonora had had romantic experiences in practically all the famous gardens of Europe, beginning with the Grossner gardens in Dresden where, as a schoolgirl before the war, she had been picked up by a White Russian prince. And yet nothing had come of these pickings up; she had remained unmarried, one could almost say untouched. It was all a very far cry from the dusty little park where she and James now walked.” Leonora takes it upon herself to help James manage the storing of his furniture, buys him expensive gifts – and contrives to evict her tenant so she can move James into the vacant flat above her, upon his return from Spain. However unknown to Leonora, just before James leaves on his Spanish trip, he meets the young and bookish Phoebe, young, badly dressed and sexually liberated, Phoebe is a very different kind of woman. When Leonora realises that in order to keep James under her spell she needs to dispense with young Phoebe, her critical eye appraises her as being no threat. However Leonora has not reckoned on wicked young American, Ned, who follows James back from Spain, and who is also quite adept at weaving a spell. Leonora is a wonderfully dreadful character, self-absorbed and blind to her own faults, she judges all other women against herself and under her gaze they just don’t measure up. Leonora is unaware how really quite like her friend Meg she is, Meg nursing an impossible affection for her friend Colin – who is gay. Old fashioned, slightly fussy Humphrey’s romantic intentions continue, although he is not unaware of Leonora’s preference for his nephew – and Leonora is quite happy to use Humphrey for a pleasant evening out. I really enjoyed my re-reading of this Barbara Pym novel – I actually fairly gulped it down this time. Leonora is not totally unsympathetic – although there were moments when I wanted to slap her slightly – she is hard to like. Many of the characters in this novel are manipulative or deluded, and it is in this that we see Pym’s superb sharpness. Those lines of Keats – quoted at the start of the book and even referred to by Ned, give the story real poignancy.

  • Chiffchaff Birdy
    2019-01-20 12:33

    What hateful snobs abound in this book. Leonora, for whom everything has to be perfection, Humphrey who looks down on Miss Caton, Ned, who looks down on his lovers, James, who looks down on Phoebe and so on... It's a social heirachy of horrid snobs. Not one likeable character in the book apart from, say, Phoebe, who seems to be the most normal of them all.Leonora, so wrapped up in her own beauty, elegance and grace that she hadn't noticed that she'd been left on the shelf until it was too late. She thought herself so above everyone that she was immune to such tawdry things as feelings. Leonora was like a Bensonite Lucia but with no wit or sparkle. I felt no sympathy for her, or James, or Humphrey and certainly not Ned.Despite that I found this to be my favourite Pym so far. Much more observed and characterised. It felt more serious than the congregational books and seemed to be detailing a time of change from the old order, with its stifling unsaid rules and heirachy of Leonora, to the apparently less rigid times of which Phoebe was an example. A really enjoyable book.

  • Margaret
    2019-01-19 08:34

    I felt as though I should like this more than I did. The characters are especially perceptively drawn, but I just didn't sympathize with any of them and so didn't care a lot what happened to them.ETA 8/24/2017: On second reading, I felt a little more sympathy for Leonora, but my essential feeling on first reading remains the same. I do admire the excellent characterization, but there's no emotional hook for me (vs., for instance, _Quartet in Autumn_, with equally fine characterization but more likeable characters).

  • Roger Pettit
    2019-01-25 10:56

    I have long been a fan of Barbara Pym's superficially gentle (but actually quite robust) novels of English life in the post-Second World War years. Her body of work is not large - Pym wrote fewer than fifteen novels - and is noteworthy for its delicate, amusing and restrained examination of the life of a certain type of middle-class person who is searching for love. The world of the Anglo-Catholic church and its somewhat dreary social life of the time, of curates, of minor intellectuals and of unattached men and women forms the backdrop to Pym's beautifully observed stories. As poet and critic Anthony Thwaite put it: "Her characters are specimens in a lepidopterist's cabinet: some rare and exotic, some dim and dowdy, but all meticulously impaled on the delicate pins of a wit that is as scrupulous as it is deadly". 'The Sweet Dove Died' is one of Pym's later works. It is perhaps darker than some of her earlier novels. And it is not preoccupied with the clergy or with members of the Anglo-Catholic church. Indeed, church attendance and anything to do with it is wholly absent from the story. Instead, we have antiques dealer Humphrey Boyce and his young nephew James, both of whom work in Humphrey's shop in London's fashionable Sloane Square. The story opens as they are having lunch with Leonora Eyre, whom they have just met at a Bond Street auction room. Leonora is cool, poised, elegant and fastidious. Humphrey becomes very fond of her. But Leonora develops feelings for James. James, however, seems to be confused about his sexuality. He has a brief liaison with a young woman called Phoebe before meeting and falling for a young American man named Ned. That simple story is the plot in full. Leonora's love for James, who is less than half her age and who, because of his homosexuality, is unlikely to be able to return it, is the basis of a harrowing tale of unrequited passion. The underlying theme of 'The Sweet Dove Died' is the anxiety (and the desperation, even) that many of us experience as we get older about the increasingly limited opportunities available to us to find love. As always, Pym's characterisation is superb. Her prose is unfussy and supremely readable. And this wonderful writer brings her usual qualities of control and restraint to a world that she most definitely made her own in the field of English novels of the 20th century - that of the personal feelings, the emotions, the thwarted passions and the sadness that inhabit the lives of ordinary people. 'The Sweet Dove Died' may bring you to tears. Yet it is also curiously uplifting in the way that it so accurately recognizes and portrays the snobbery, the comedy and the pathos of the unremarkable lives that most of us lead. It's an excellent novel. 10/10.

  • Alan
    2019-02-04 12:49

    In the last week I've gone from:‘..I haven’t seen Jack in damn near six months. We don’t hang out together or nothing. I don’t know where that nigger at, man!’Willis McDaniel swung his left forearm out hard at Morgan Jackson’s head.The blow caught him solid on the side of the face..‘Don’t try to shit me,’ McDaniel said. ‘You know you gettin’ dope from your brother, boy. Don’t lie to me, junkie.’To:Humphrey and Leonora had been lunching together and now, as it was a fine afternoon, he proposed a drive into the country.‘I shall enjoy it all the more because I shall feel slightly guilty leaving poor Miss Caton to cope with any possible customers,’ he declared, ‘but who could work on such an afternoon?’What’s surprising is that the former (from ‘The Jones Men’, 1974) was written earlier than the latter (Pym’s book came out in 1978). However they do have similarities – both are tight, dialogue-heavy, intricately plotted short novels set in enclosed societies. It’s just that there’s less blood, guns and dope (none) in Pym’s. Pym’s is set in a vanishing world (I remember 1978 Britain well and it was nothing like this!) with a 50ish fragrant if waspy, smart but deplorable heroine, Leonora (sample line from her: ‘One feels that using paraffin is somehow degrading – the sort of thing black people do, upsetting oil heaters and setting the place on fire’). She cleverly manipulates those around her to get what she wants, and falls for the much younger nephew of an antique dealer who becomes her companion. She keeps the antique dealer interested too. Things, as they often do, fall apart: the young man has a girl on the side and then turns out to be bi-sexual when he meets Ned, the American, who is as cleverly manipulative as Leonora (and as easily bored and dismissive). A delightfully sharp and economical comedy of manners.

  • Lynda
    2019-02-03 07:55

    This late Pym is absolutely marvellous. The tale of languid Leonora, James and Humphrey. This Pym is set in London with a few naughty sorties to the countryside. As always with Pym the detail is delicious. Leonora has dresses the colour of prune and amethyst. She prepares scratch suppers with new asparagus and omelette washed down with Creme de Menthe. All the men bring her flowers. But underneath this frothy soufflé is the bitter taste of rejection. Lovers are cruel and chances not taken quickly pass. Like a terrine or millefleur Pym layers the levels of her story, into a poignantly charming confection. As soon as I'd finished it I wanted to read another.

  • Anthony Peter
    2019-01-21 11:03

    In the last chapter of this novel, Pym writes '...but in the end parting had come with the inevitability of the last scene of a well-constructed play'. Replace 'play' with 'novel', and you have my initial response to this late book by Pym who's a novelist a friend put me onto a couple of years ago.I think the thing I most respected in this tale of unfulfilled urbanite lives was the ending. Apart from Ned going back to America, no other ends are tied up. No wonder Larkin liked Pym: this novel ends with the same sort of effect as 'Mr Bleaney', what might be described as a kind of bewildered disturbance about the vanity of existence. James has been abandoned by both his male and female lover and, tacitly, by his older female admirer, Leonora (who has, I think, only ever kept him around as a trophy toyboy over who she can exercise the power she doesn't have over her own emotional life and as a way of staving off the reality of her own loneliness). Leonora herself who has been deserted by James in response both to Ned's expertise in heartless manipulation and pleasurable self-dramatisation, and to his own anxiety about being trapped by Leonora, continues her non-committal to a relationship of sorts with Humphrey which seems to exist as far as she can manage it in elegant dinners and excursions to showrooms and flower shows. Phoebe's existence, we are left to imagine as one that is as undriven and indecisive as the chaos of her cottage suggests, and she, I thought with remarkable daring on Pym's part, simply disappears from the story. Miss Caton will continue to go cheerfully on holiday by coach; Meg will desperately cultivate gay Colin's continuing allegiance, and Liz will have her cats.It's a strange world. Although the novel is set in metropolitan and suburban London with some sallies out into the home counties (sometimes, when needs must - a measure of Leonora's desperation - by Green Line bus), we don't have a sense of Dickensian busyness. It seems a very small world in which isolated and lonely people lead small lives on the edge of pointlessness, spending a lot of time doing things that allow them to persuade themselves that daily life is not meaningless. The landscape feels as if it's one created by Stevie Smith.I'm not sure what to make of Leonora. Although the novel was published in 1978 and if we assume it is set at that time as well, it nevertheless feels as if it's set in the early sixties or late fifties. But then if Humphrey and Leonora are people of a certain age, then they would have been born in the 1930s, and Leonora in particular may reflect the attitudes of an earlier time. Certainly, I was aware of how physically inhibited she is: she is beset, hampered, by a restraint that seems to be bred into her by the importance she attaches to elegance and aesthetics and form, the kind of externals that are accorded a worth that means that emotional intelligence is never allowed to blossom let alone bloom. This seems to me in keeping with the way a lot of upper-middle-class women may have been been brought up in the forties and fifties. Twice Pym shows her in tears when her carefully constructed world fails her. These were, however, for me rare moments when I found myself sympathising with a character I otherwise found wickedly manipulative, dishonest with herself, snobbish, uncharitable - to such an extent that even though I could see why she behaved like that, I could not find it in me to admit the pathos of it.I did not exactly warm to James, either, because he was so limp. However, Pym presents him as a virtually unparented , sensitive boy, without much brain and looked after both indulgently and exploitatively by his uncle, Humphrey. He has little interest in antiques, has no business oomph, and lacks the zip to exercise any self-determination. Thus he is easily led by Leonora and the waspish Ned, a kind of malign imp, parasitising the emotional inadequacy of other people. (Ned is the only character who gets the better of Leonora.) James is simply too weak to chase after Phoebe who is herself finished off by her rival, Leonora. Yet James, by his very helplessness excites a little more sympathy.The other aspect of the novel I liked was its understated style. So much is suggested by that which is unsaid. Leonora's knowing self-deceptions are perfectly evident to us, and it's pretty clear that they are to her as well, but she knows how to play them so that others will support her in them, and thus she can believe them to be true. Leonora's dialogue is crisply polite. It reminded me of Lawrence's rant against the Oxford voice - 'We wouldn't insist on it for a moment / but we are / we are / you admit we are / superior' - and it contrasted nicely with Meg and Liz and Ned and Mrs Culver. It's a form of cultivated politeness that allows anything that is 'unpleasant' to have no existence at all; and it's a way of asserting both social and personal worth, and quite plainly evidences the absence of both in the great scale of things. I find it very sad.A lot of tea is offered, and a lot of 'drinks' (on trays, not at bars). 'George and Martha, sad, sad, sad.' The novel left me feeling both sad and exhilarated - sad by the lives that were depicted, exhilarated by the accomplishment with which they were presented.

  • Belinda
    2019-02-11 10:43

    Desert Island discs has an interesting interview with Pym. She discusses her early books, her fall from grace, her new books. Perhaps this is why "The Sweet Dove Died" has a different tone to her earlier ones, she'd been through the mill and decided she had nothing to lose. The war had ended, the pretty clothes and parties were over, the genteel woman who could afford not to work was a thing of the past. Certainly Pym had never been a genteel lady, choosing to work full-time and then write at night, her gimlet eye for reality juxtaposed with that very English thing - class and the fantasy of we-are-better-than-them - is as sharp as it's ever been in this book.Leonora, James and Humphrey are all self-absorbed snobs. Leonora gets all caught up with both men after meeting them while buying some Victoriana. Before long they are all in each other's pockets, feeling self satisfied because he takes her out to dinner, she makes him look well connected, he feels flattered, she feels they treat her in the special manner she deserves, etc, etc. They're truly awful.Underpinning this is reality, the world has to inch its way into this self satisfied little triangle or it wouldn't be a Pym. Enter Phoebe and, later, Ned, both products of the post-war attitude to life. Phoebe is a normal young woman who works, studies, travels, and expects a mutual kind of love. Ned is a gay man who amuses himself and moves on. Phoebe is a little naive and is easily manipulated, Ned is worldly-wise and dangerous to the ordered little world of Leonora/James/Humphrey.Anways, this has been a long enough review. I liked this book a great deal. I preferred it to all the other Pym books I've read, although I've heard it wasn't so popular. I believe this might be because it shines a very high beamed light on the ridiculous English class system.Very good. Go buy it and read it.

  • James
    2019-02-17 05:41

    Only three years before her death by cancer at age sixty-six Barbara Pym was rediscovered and achieved international fame. The loci of the rediscovery was a survey of famous British writers in the January 21, 1977 edition of the Times Literary Supplement, in which two of the famous writers asked to nominate the most underrated book of the previous seventy-five years picked novels by Pym. Philip Larkin, one of the surveyed writers, put Pym in Jane Austen’s league for her ability to keep her reader “always on the verge of smiling.” Recently Alexander McCall Smith echoed this comparison when he singled out Pym’s Excellent Women as “one of the most endearingly amusing English novels of the twentieth century.” Among Pym's oeuvre The Sweet Dove Died is my personal favorite with its richly drawn characters including Leonora Eyre, an attractive and elegant, but essentially selfish, middle-aged woman. Leonora is very much the Victorian trying to live in a post-Victorian world. She surrounds herself with Victoriana, even to the point of replacing her parents’ picture with that of her grandparents because she thinks that they, in their late Victorian dress, are more distinguished looking. The plot involves her with an antique dealer, Humphrey Boyce, and his nephew James. Both men are attracted to Leonora, but Leonora prefers the young, good-looking James to the more "suitable" Humphrey. Who she will choose to be with and whether they will accept her becomes more and more complicated as the novel progresses. Pym's prose style is felicitous, while her story line is as classically sound as one out of Jane Austen. As with all Pym's fiction, the novel contains many literary references, notably to works by Keats, John Milton and Henry James. And all of her stories are a delight to read for any who enjoy a good English novel.

  • Wealhtheow
    2019-02-06 05:35

    Books by Pym are always concerned with the inner lives and details of people living quiet, retiring lives in England . As always, there are frustrated love-affairs, slightly uncomfortable dinner parties, and carefully examined friendships. Thirty years passed between Pym’s first novel and this one, and the time has clearly made an impression. Most obviously, there is a sizable queer presence in these books. Moreover, the parties and thoughts of the young people described are finally approaching modernity. I initially hated the main character, a middle-aged woman of delicate tastes and beautiful manners. Snobby, self-contained and selfish, she gives little and requires much from the people around her. She’s an older, less dynamic Lily Bart, and it’s actually quite disturbing. But as the book goes on, the subtleties of her situation and mind are revealed, and she slowly becomes more sympathetic. By the end, her own desperate loneliness has been exposed, but because she finally recognizes the truth—that she *is* lonely, and so are other people—it seemed a happy ending to me.

  • Ali
    2019-01-25 11:03

    As with other Barbara Pym novels, this novel is both charming and clever. Leonora is a wondeful creation, although she is actually quite horrible in her determination to keep James near. In fact Leonora's personality is such, that throughout the novel she dominates - the three men, Humphrey, James and Ned, are small and pale by comparrison. Barbara Pym writes about a world that almost certainly doesn't exist anymore, and of a certain class, which does, although not in the same way somehow. The title is taken from Keats poem."I had a dove and the sweet dove died;And I have thought it died of grievingO, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tiedWith a single thread of my own hand's weaving"

  • Jane
    2019-01-29 09:40

    Shallow, bigoted, manipulative, self-centered - all words that could describe the 50-something Leonora. But yet through Pym's understated character development, you also see her as lonely and vulnerable, a product of her times and social class.Leonora meets Humphrey and James at an antique auction. Humphrey immediately falls for her, but it is Humphrey's much younger nephew James that Leonara is interested in. And she will do whatever she can to hold on to him."I had a dove, and the sweet dove died; And I have thought it died of grieving; O, what could it grieve for? its feet were tied With a single thread of my own hand's weaving.." - John Keats

  • Amy
    2019-02-06 12:02

    This is one of the more poignant Pym novels that is just as good as her others but tinged with a melancholy. I find her portrayal of Leonora fascinating and these spinster women attaching themselves to gay men and playing second fiddle to their love affairs makes for great reading. Leonora is one of the few Pym characters that I do not like. Her very regimented, pampered lifestyle coupled with her selfish personality really got to me. The dismissing of her elderly tenant to make room for James was so illustrative that I could hardly take it. It didn't make it any better that the old lady was going to leave anyway.As always, fantastic reading.

  • Emma Rose Ribbons
    2019-02-08 11:58

    I enjoyed this very much. It was quick and the characters were sharply depicted in just so scenes that had the right amount of details to make you feel and experience this world. The main female character is unlikeable and yet so very complex and puzzling I couldn't help but be attracted to her despite everything. There's also a very non-judgemental description of a same-sex relationship that was very unexpected and very well done. Pym is very good at conjuring up seemingly common situations and turn them into life-changing events. I loved this book and I'll make a point of reading more by her.

  • Lois
    2019-02-09 10:38

    Title is from a poem by Keats:I had a dove, and the sweet dove diedAnd I have thought it died of grieving;O what could it grieve for? Its feet were tiedWith a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving:Sweet little red feet! why would you die?Why would you leave me, sweet bird, why?You liv’d alone on the forest tree,Why, pretty thing, could you not live with me?I kiss’d you oft, and gave you white pease;Why not live sweetly as in the green trees?

  • Stephanie
    2019-02-11 08:38

    I suspect this book was the inspiration for the song "Love Stinks" by the J. Geils Band. Despite the gloomy outlook on romance, this novel is somehow lighthearted and irreverent. Barbara Pym, gurl, if I had a time machine, I'd surely go back in time and have a glorious tea with you. After I killed Hitler, of course.

  • Jackson Matthews
    2019-02-10 07:53

    Although most of the characters behave terribly, the story goes along just fine!

  • Beth
    2019-01-17 12:44

    I reread this book a few years back but did not recod it on Goodreads. Probably because I first read it way back before then and was not recording anything but new reads. So thus may have been my fourth read and one I undertook in preparation for the Barbara Pym conference this coming March 2018. I know a little of the history of this book and read more about it. Yes, Leonora Eyre is not a Pym excellent woman or a doer of good deeds. She is a middle-aged calculating narcisstic diminishing beauty who requires adoration from men to feed her insatiable need to be worshipped. The adoration must be from arm's length and any trespass across her physical and emotional boundaries is scorned and rejected. As in other Pym novels, the theme of a loveless woman of a certain age becoming entwined with a young man of unspecified sexual orientaion is one of the central motifs around which the story spins. Unlike her other books, The Sweet Dove Died omits church life. No vicars. No worrying about Roman inclinations. London and city life replaces English village life. Despite Leonora's urban sophistication, she remains anachronistic in the way she dresses and speaks, but especially in her expectations that men should "keep" her in her skewed state of superiority and expect nothing in return. She is a tragic figure unprepared to age.

  • JanGlen
    2019-02-09 05:56

    I started this expecting the usual quiet but perceptive Pym scrutiny of genteel life in an English village. But this time she delivers something quite different. There are no vicars or curates and all the main characters are self obsessed and mildly obnoxious. It is impossible to like any of them, and for me that initially was a problem. Once I realised that none of them were going to be redeemed though I settled down to thoroughly enjoy this story of the way people try to manipulate others to suit their own ends. The incredibly vain Leonora is a master at it, without having an ounce of self knowledge. Pym's writing is, as always, a joy to read.

  • Cathy
    2019-02-05 06:58

    I have read almost all of Pym's novels and this one did not disappoint. I bought an old secondhand copy published in the 80s. It's a shame this book does not seem to be in print currently, along with several others that have been reissued/repackaged. Last year I read my way through many other Pym novels (regrettably I did not keep track here, but I can add them at a later date as time allows). This novel is just as entertaining, wry and sharply written as one might expect. I was reminded of Anita Brookner's novels, especially with the setting of London and a main character living a solitary flat-dwelling life. and of course I think Brookner must have been a fan.

  • Molly
    2019-02-04 06:49

    Read in a few hours, another wonderful novel of the subtlety of relationships and motivations by Pym. A middle-aged woman befriends a man of about her age and his nephew, preferring the attentions of the nephew, who lavishes her with attention until he first meets a girl his own age and then a boy of about his own age. Rivalry, envy, jealousy, narcissism (mirrors abound), selfishness, greed, fear of aging and appearing vulnerable, and other interesting emotions and behaviours fuel the superficially simple story.

  • Julie Barrett
    2019-02-02 09:42

    Oh no, what happened to my lovely Barbara Pym novels?! There wasn't a vicar or jumble sale or flower show in sight in this novel. It was more like reading an art house movie from the 1970s. Oh sure, the dialogue is clever and sharp and the settings perfect in their details. However, the characters are unpleasant and the plot grey and depressing. I think I would have loved this book in my twenties. At 50, it was all just so disheartening and draining. Not what I want at all at this juncture of my life. I will make a point to only read Miss Pym's earlier novels. This was such a letdown!