Some of the popular perceptions of Barbara Pym, from the selected academic criticism I’ve read, are that she’s fusty and outdated, or that she is very chaste. Apparently, none of these academics read The Sweet Dove Died, because sexuality is a HUGE aspect of this novel of manners. In so many ways.
Leonora Eyre is a woman of middle-age (we assume), who decides to attend an antique auction and bid on a book herself, much to the dismay of the highly proper antique owner Humphrey, and his twenty-something nephew, James. The three strike up an acquaintance, and a very confusing love triangle ensues: Humphrey is in love with Leonora, Leonora is in love with James, and James…well, James has some sexual sorting out to do. He’s very fond of Leonora, but then very-modern and age-appropriate Phoebe enters the picture. And then, a mischief-making American named James upsets the whole apple cart.