Nancy Mitford is a goddess to raving Anglophiles like me. Her joined novels The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate are not only semi-autobiographical and deeply moving, but one of the funniest examinations of British eccentricity ever written. The narrator of both books is Fanny, a quiet girl who observes the lives and loves of her more madcap cousins Linda and Polly. Linda’s story is covered in The Pursuit of Love when the vivacious Linda unwisely marries first a crashing bore of a conservative and then a crashing bore of a communist, and finally finds happiness with a sophisticated Casavnova of a Frenchman. Love In A Cold Climate follows Polly, a beautiful girl destined for a duke or a prince . . . until she elopes with her uncle by marriage.
These books will have you yearning for hedgerows, country houses, and fox hunters in pink coats
The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate are less about plot and more about the characters, who make themselves unforgettable every time they open their mouths. Tony the conservative, “a perfect mountain of pomposity.” Uncle Matthew the explosive country squire, training his bloodhounds by having them hunt his children across the countryside or even across Hyde Park in London, despite people staring. Lady Montdore the ineffable snob, observing “Hardly any of one’s friends in England had ever heard of India before we went there, you know.” Linda’s lover Fabrice, urban to his fingertips, a hero of the French resistance who finds time to keep his mistress updated on the latest fashion trends (“That suit has ready-made all over it; jackets are longer this year.”)
If “Gosford Park” and Oscar Wilde is your idea of humor; if you have ever yearned to grow up in an English country house with fox hunting and tweeds and Oxford dons coming for long weekends – then these are the books for you.
I was expecting a baby myself, and naturally took a great interest in Linda’s. “What are you going to call her – and where is she, anyway?”
“In the nurse’s room – it shrieks. Moira, I believe.”
“Not Moira, darling, you can’t. I never heard such an awful name.”
“Tony likes it, it he had a sister called Moira who died, and what d’you think I found out? She died because his other sister whacked her on the head with a hammer when she was four months old. Do you call that interesting? And then they say we have an uncontrolled family – why, even Father has never actually murdered anybody, or do you count that gamekeeper?”
Review of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and Love In A Cold Climate to follow this Friday.