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The Sweet Dove Died (1978)

by Barbara Pym

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6532826,838 (3.84)1 / 97
A story about the sometimes troubled truths of relationships.

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» See also 97 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
One of Pym's most incisive and observational novels. A strange beast, this, flitting between points of view and always so darned ironic, every line left with half of it unspoken, asking the reader to intuit, and do so much of the work, but always led on by the wry human insights Pym seemed to do so well.

Leonora Eyre, independently wealthy (although not absurdly so), seems to feel an emptiness in her life but she can't quite express it. She certainly doesn't understand work, and she's not inclined towards charity, but she is too intelligent to truly enjoy the mundane circularity that weighs down the life of the ordinary person. And, yet, she's not intelligent enough to be an academic, as so many Pym characters are (one gets the sense that her grasp of poetry is half-hearted much of the time). All of this makes her an odd fit for a central character in a Pym, and perhaps this is why I found myself more absorbed by the younger characters who are more my age. James, Phoebe, and - yes - Ned, that American whom many Pymmians consider the greatest villain in her entire oeuvre, although I don't necessarily think he's any more to blame for anything than Leonora is.

This is an affecting and enjoyable read. It's an unusual Pymin that her decision to centre on Leonora puts us at more of a remove than usual from the tertiary characters, and renders James - the second most important character - as secondary himself. But I'll be glad when next Sweet Dove comes up in my Pym rotation, to enjoy its variety from the usual world of musty Pym academe, and for the pleasures she always offers as a novelist. ( )
  therebelprince | Jun 24, 2021 |
8.23.19: This novel is rich for analysis from so many angles. Really excited to be presenting on it next month! ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
This was definitely less optimistic than earlier Pym novels, and less amusing, but I still found it entertaining. By the end I was sympathizing with everyone except the amoral Ned. ( )
  pgchuis | Nov 5, 2019 |
This very late entry in the Pym canon is much harder and cynical than her earlier work. It still has the elegance of phrase but more cutting, and the heroine (?) is very hard to sympathise with. As usual, one or two characters from the earlier books make very fleeting reappearances. This is not vintage Pym; but it's still beautifully written and much better than A Few Green Leaves or An Academic Question. ( )
  ponsonby | Oct 5, 2018 |
Didn't make it past page 50. And I like other Barbara Pym books. But not this one. ( )
  ReadMeAnother | Jan 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Pymprimary authorall editionscalculated
Schuman, JackieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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
To R.
First words
"The sale room is no place for a women", declared Humphrey Boyce, as he and his nephew James sat having lunch with the attractive stranger they had picked up at a Bond Street sale room half an hour ago.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A story about the sometimes troubled truths of relationships.

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Average: (3.84)
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2 5
2.5 1
3 35
3.5 17
4 60
4.5 6
5 32


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