Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Friend Who Introduced Me to the Mitfords

If you had the chance to change into somebody else for a few hours, who would you be? Meryl Streep at the Oscars? Emily Bronte brooding on the moors? Marie Antoinette at the ball, flirting with someone other than the impotent Louis XVI?

No, Nancy Mitford. Or, actually, the friend who introduced me to the Mitfords, because she has exquisite taste.

I love the Mitfords and will read anything about them. Nancy's novels, Decca's memoirs, various biographies. My poor husband has had to buy them all for various birthdays and special occasions. When a new volume of the Mitfords' letters came out a few years ago, I begged him to go out on a cold night and get it for me before he fetched our takeout dinner. He had a little chat with the bookstore clerk. They commiserated with each other about the Mitford Industry.

My friend, Sylvia, a musician who loves the Mitfords, has the best supply of "vintage" novels from the '30s, '40s, and '50s ever. Sylvia got me started on Nancy's three greatest novels, all narrated by Fanny, the observant, good-humored daughter of the Bolter (a woman who can't seem to stay married or with one man), and the cousin of the flamboyant Radletts, whose grumpy father hunts them like dogs when he has no foxes to hunt. At the heart of The Pursuit of Love is the story of Linda Radlett, a charming, witty, tragic beauty who has a series of romances until she finally meets the One in France before World War II. The next two, Love in a Cold Climate and Don't Tell Alfred, are equally sweet and funny.

Olivia Laing, the deputy books editor of the Observer, has written a short piece about Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love in a little column called Classics Corner.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

It is very short, but it does serve as a reminder that this is an excellent novel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I adore Nancy, too. An extremely talented comic writer and comedy is the hardest to do well. Penguin have just re-issued her novels with lovely covers and include Wigs on the Green which I've never read. Must get it.