I was in absolutely the right mood to listen to the audiobook version of the book during the week It s narrated by English actress Emilia Fox, who does a great job Her accent for the French Fabrice was unconvincing okay, terrible but otherwise I enjoyed her interpretation of the characters This has renewed my interest in the Mitfords Maybe it s time to re read Love in a Cold Climate and then possibly a biography It s not as if there s a dearth of material about Nancy Mitford and her sisters.
After some of the books I have read recently interesting ones, but with prose that s ranged from workmanlike to experimental it was a huge pleasure to indulge myself with a writer that has such perfect mastery over her sentences This sparkling, clear sighted and unromantic romantic comedy is a little chef d uvre of wit and dazzling conversation, in which Mitford deploys the same mannered levity to write about great tragedy that she does to describe an amusing misunderstanding at a dinner party.
Like innumerable British comedies from Shakespeare to The Office, the humour is founded on class differences In fact, not the least pleasure in The Pursuit of Love comes from its value as English social history splenetic Uncle Matthew, in particular, is a wonderfully ogreish character, roaring around his country estate, hunting his children with hounds, and bursting into apoplexy if his daughters use such deplorably middle class vocabulary as notepaper, mantelpiece, mirror or perfume Mitford is confident that discerning readers will know, without being told, that one must instead say writing paper, chimneypiece, looking glass and scent and instead of spending a weekend at Alconleigh, you will be invited to spend a Saturday to Monday there Uncle Matthew is not a literary man the only book he s ever read is White Fang and I did enjoy the passage where he was dragged to a performance of Romeo and Juliet It was not a success He cried copiously, and went into a furious rage because it ended badly All the fault of that damned padre, he kept saying on the way home, still wiping his eyes That fella, what s is name, Romeo, might have known a blasted papist would mess up the whole thing Silly old fool of a nurse too, I bet she was an RC, dismal old bitch Uncle Matthew is a thinly disguised portrait of Baron Redesdale, Nancy Mitford s father, and it s tempting, though not quite possible, to read the whole book as a roman clef In fact, our heroine, Linda Radlett, is a kind of amalgam of all the Mitford sisters.
As the title suggests, the book is broadly about her search for love, and yet despite the witty tone and the extraordinary lightness of touch, the plot itself is shot through with flashes of cruelty and tragedy Such things can be borne, though, the book suggests and are even, perhaps, preferable to a life of uneventful blandness T hey could not stand boredom Storms and difficulties left them unmoved, but day after day of ordinary existence produced an unbearable torture of ennui Linda seems on the verge of this with some of her unhappy relationships I loved her failure to adapt to household domesticity But oh how dreadful it is, cooking, I mean That oven Christian puts things in and says Now you take it out in about half an hour I don t dare tell him how terrified I am, and at the end of half an hour I summon up all my courage and open the oven, and there is that awful hot blast hitting one in the face I don t wonder people sometimes put their heads in and leave them in out of sheer misery Laughter, once cultivated, is never far away in this book, or in the lives of its most appealing characters and this is what allows you to cope with the many disasters that life is likely to throw at you.
The understated wit has been mistaken for lack of feeling, but the emotions are real and deep what s carefully controlled is how we choose to talk about it Even the book s cursory, tragic ending can be accepted I say this as someone who hates unhappy endings , because it is so obviously done for the sake of neatness And this is a very neat book slim, fitted, elegant, really an unalloyed delight.
Love is first sexual responses You shouldn t marry that running away from a dull conventional relationship to feel alive You shouldn t marry that embracing passion and letting go of other people s judgment to be yourself with someone who shares your values You could possibly but not necessarily marry that Linda manages to marry for all the wrong reasons at a time when marrying was a rather definitive affair She married rich, conservative Tony and his banking family for marriage is never only between two people, it is between tribal values Then she let the pendulum move to the other side of the political spectrum and ran away with an idealist whose incapacity for individual relationships was as great as his passion for collective social justice.
In the end, she stumbled upon Fabrice, who taught her physical pleasure and love But love is changeable, and had the two of them survived the Second World War, who knows where they would have drifted For even though Fabrice was Linda s great love, it ALWAYS is, as long as it lasts, isn t it So instead of living happily ever after, which never happens, they died while they were still happily in love, like Romeo and Juliet Imagine them after twenty years of marriage No A fabulously light and nostalgic interlude in my heavy Grass diet RESE A COMPLETA lo he pasado demasiado bien con este libro como para no darle la m xima puntuaci n posible Es ingenioso, ligero, divertido pero con destellos de una realidad terrible La Guerra Civil espa ola con sus refugiados, el auge del fascismo, la Segunda Guerra Mundial.
Es un libro lleno de personajes rid culos y maravillosos t o Matthew y Lord Merlin INOLVIDABLES , totalmente british Realmente creo que si Jane Austen hubiera nacido en el siglo XX hubiera escrito algo as.
Life, she thought, is sometimes sad and often dull, but there are currants in the cake and here is one of them.
The early morning sun shone past her window on to the river, her ceiling danced with water reflections The Sunday silence was broken by two swans winging slowly upstream, and then by the chugging of a little barge, while she waited for that other sound, a soundintimately connected with the urban love affair than any except the telephone bell, that of a stopping taxicab Sun, silence, and happiness Presently she heard it in the street, slowly, slower, it stopped, the flag went up with a ring, the door slammed, voices, clinking coins, footsteps She rushed downstairs Linda Radlett apparently has it all a noble ancestry, wealth, beauty, wit, friends The only thing missing, the elusive dream she always chases is love We first meet Linda as a child of ten, seen through the eyes of her cousin Fanny, the narrator of the story They are the same age, and together they will navigate the turbulent waters of Victorian social conventions in the years after the first World War in search of the safe harbour of the perfect marriage, the perfect husband and the perfect love story.
I picked up the book expecting the kind of funny and laidback summer entertainment that I get from P G Wodehouse and from the pre War Hollywood screwball comedies rich people in sumptuous mansions flirting endlessly while the reality of hunger and strife and violence seems to belong to a different planet In the beginning, that was exactly what I got as the Radlett family is introduced in all its irreverent and disruptive glory Uncle Matthew who keeps above the mantelpiece the bloody entrenching tool that he used to gore eight Germans in the mud of the Somme, who hunts his own children with bloodhounds when he runs out of game and who terrorizes the housemaids every morning as they go about their duties, his absent minded wife Sadie, her sister The Bolter who abandoned daughter Fanny to be raised like a cuckoo among relatives and who is now changing husbands on the continentoften than mink coats, the children who run feral on the estate sabotaging their father s animal traps, the Alconleigh Castle itself with its always cold rooms and dusty mementoes of family historyThe great advantage of living in a large family is that early lesson of life s essential unfairness It is soon evident that Nancy Mitford is not interested in the escapism value of the story Given the clear autobiographical origin for the Radlett family antics a case where life beats fiction in the Mitford scandal ridden legacy , I believe the author tried not only to preserve the spirit of her childhood memories, but also to exorcise the demons that have haunted her own search for love and happiness Not only through the eyes of Fanny, but through all the Radlett siblings we see how the late Victorian rigid code has been shackling women and limited their options in life to the sole role of housewife Lord Matthew refuses to let his daughters attend any form of school, as he firmly believes that piano, French and riding lessons are the only education they need in order to ensnare a husband Louisa marries an elderly friend of her father in her very first year of coming out in society, Matt the only boy runs away from school to fight in the Spanish Civil War, Jassy saves all her petty money for the day when she will run away from home And Linda herself dreams of marrying the Prince of Wales, when she s not scaring her siblings with lurid descriptions of the physical act of love Even Fanny, whose clear eyed Aunt Emily has forced to attend school, is not exempt from the lure of fantasies about men and marriage One of my favorite scenes early in the book is of the two now teenage girls getting ready for their first unchaperoned and illicit date they were forbidden make up, as Uncle Matthew firmly believed a woman s compexion is best au naturelI once read in a book that you can use geranium juice for rouge Geraniums aren t out at this time of year, silly We can blue our eyelids out of Jassy s paint box And sleep in curlers I ll get the verbena soap out of Mummy s bathroom If we let it melt in the bath, and soak for hours in it, we shall smell delicious As unfit to cope with the real world as a nun raised in a convent, Linda falls under the spell of Tony, the first handsome young man that pays hommage to her beauty, and marries him despite her family reservations The Kroesigs are a rich family of bankers in the City, and their Junker inspired obsession with profits and respectability soon feel like shackles to the free spirit and unconventional Linda Even passion is not strong enough to overcome boredomShe simply could not understand how somebody who already had plenty of money could go and shut himself away from God s fresh air and blue skies, from the spring, the summer, the autumn, the winter, letting them merge into each other unaware that they were passing, simply in order to makeThe young man she had fallen in love with, handsome, gay, intellectual and domineering, melted away upon closer acquaintance, and proved to have been a chimera, never to have existed outside of her imagination Linda did not commit the usual fault of blaming Tony for what was entirely her own mistake, she merely turned from him in absolute indifference Still unable to learn from past mistakes, Linda lets herself fall under the spell of another man, the exact opposite of the right wing, conservative Kroesigs She runs away from home to be with her Communist lover and gives up wealth and her social life to marry Christian, as good looking as he is consummed by his political activism Not used to playing second fiddle in her husbands attentions and unable to cope with household chores on her own, Linda is ripe for another elopement.
Third time lucky Enters Fabrice, a smooth French Duke who literally sweeps her off her feet and installs her in a Parisian apartment, introduces her to haute couture, haute cuisine and last but not least, French expertise between the sheets I couldn t help myself With a name like Fabrice and with his French Conversation, The only thing I could picture and hear was Pepe le Pew Fabrice is an aristocrat advocating a social elitism that seems hard to achieve if you are not born into the right classEverybody is gettingserious, that s the way things are going but, whatever one may be in politics, right, left, Fascist, Communist, les gens du monde are the only possible ones for friends You see, they have made a fine art of personal relationships and of all that pertains to them manners, clothes, beautiful houses, good food, everything that makes life agreeable It would be silly not to take advantage of that Friendship is something to be built up carefully, by people of leisure, it is an art, nature does not come into it You should never despise social life de la haute societe I mean, it can be a very satisfying one, entirely artificial of course, but absorbing Apart from the life of the intellect and the contemplative religious life, which few people are qualified to enjoy, what else is there to distinguish man from the animals but his social life Some of the effervescent wit and zest for life from the beginning of the novel resurfaces in Linda s life, but the year is 1939 and a rude awakening is just around the corner for the two lovers Despite his profession of epicurean nonchalance, Fabrice joins the French Army to fight the German threat, and Linda is sent back to London to await the end of hostilities In London, Linda gets reunited with Fanny, by now happily married with an Oxford Don, and they compare notes on the success of their quest for happinessAlfred and I are Happy, as happy as married people can be We are in love, we are intellectually and physically suited in every possible way, we rejoice in each other s company, we have no money troubles and three delightful children And yet, when I consider my life, day by day, hour by hour, it seems to be composed of a series of pinpricks Nannies, cooks, the endless drudgery of housekeeping, the nerve racking noise and boring repetitive conversation of small children boring in the sense that it bores into one s very brain , their absolute incapacity to amuse themselves, their sudden and terrifying illnesses, alfred s not infrequent bouts of moodiness, his invariable complaints at meals about the pudding, the way he will always use my tooth paste and will always squeeze the tube in the middle These are the components of marriage, the wholemeal bread of life, rough, ordinary, but sustaining Linda has been feeding upon honey dew, and that is an incomparable diet The bittersweet ending of the novel is oneconfirmation for me of how muchthan a funny escapist story this journey turned out to be Many novels are famous for their opening lines, but The Pursuit of Love will stay with me for its closing remarks, as The Bolter explains hers and Linda s inconstancy of the heartHe was the great love of her life, you know Oh, darling, said my mother sadly One always thinks that Every, every time
I really liked this novel Behind Nancy Mitford s humor and sharp pen lies the much less glowing reality of growing up in the British aristocracy Fanny and Linda are entering the world without much knowledge of what it means to be an adult in their social sphere It is a novel finally deep and marked by a certain melancholy on the end.
SUMMARY FROM THE BOOK Nancy Mitford s most enduringly popular novel, The Pursuit of Love is a classic comedy about growing up and falling in love among the privileged and eccentric Mitford modeled her characters on her own famously unconventional family We are introduced to the Radletts through the eyes of their cousin Fanny, who stays with them at Alconleigh, their Gloucestershire estate Uncle Matthew is the blustering patriarch, known to hunt his children when foxes are scarce Aunt Sadie is the vague but doting mother and the seven Radlett children, despite the delights of their unusual childhood, are recklessly eager to grow up The first of three novels featuring these characters, The Pursuit of Love follows the travails of Linda, the most beautiful and wayward Radlett daughter, who falls first for a stuffy Tory politician, then an ardent Communist, and finally a French duke named Fabrice The novel immediately invites the reader in with this opening paragraph I knew right away that I wanted to dwell in the word magic offered by a relaxed, yet highly thoughtful writer THERE is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea table at Alconleigh The table is situated, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, in the hall, in front of a huge open fire of logs Over the chimney piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans one by one as they crawled out of a dug out It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination to us as children In the photograph Aunt Sadie s face, always beautiful, appears strangely round, her hair strangely fluffy, and her clothes strangely dowdy, but it is unmistakably she who sits there with Robin, in oceans of lace, lolling on her knee She seems uncertain what to do with his head, and the presence of Nanny waiting to take him away is felt though not seen The other children, between Louisa s eleven and Mart s two years, sit round the table in party dresses or frilly bibs, holding cups or mugs according to age, all of them gazing at the camera with large eyes opened wide by the flash, and all looking as if butter would not melt in their round pursed up mouths There they are, held like flies, in the amber of that moment click goes the camera and on goes life the minutes, the days, the years, the decades, taking them further and further from that happiness and promise of youth, from the hopes Aunt Sadie must have had for them, and from the dreams they dreamed for themselves I often think there is nothing quite so poignantly sad as old family groups.
A Delightful read Endearing characters, colorful lives, with British roses abound However, it isthan that Nancy Mitford in this first novel, attempted to capture the sui generis oddities of Mitford family life and succeed beautifully in doing so.
In the introduction to the novel, the novelist, Zo Heller, describes Nancy Mitford s work as too spiky and intelligent to qualify as an altogether cosy or comforting novelThe jokes are peerless, yes I doubt I shall ever tire of reading Linda s horrified account of housekeeping or Uncle Matthew s outraged review of Romeo and Juliet or Davey s devastating analysis of the Radlett family s museum quality mineral collection But beneath the brittle surface of this novel s wit there is something infinitelymelancholy at work something that is apt to snag you and pull you into its dark undertow when you are least expecting it In contrast to some of theobviously serious novels that impressed me in my youth, whose depths have since proved disappointingly plumbable, this unassuming bit of mid century chick lit has not only held up beautifully over time, but continues to yield richesFirst published in 1942, it is not a fast read and can even become boring at times Yet, it has that particular British charm of the classics to it that captures the reader in the end This is actually an amazing read, often hilariously funny, and other times sad The prose kept on nurturing my soul and the issues covered in the book, particularly in the context of those times, were remarkable The author had a refreshing way of telling this story.
Warm, witty, elegant, an affectionate portrait of Mitford s own eccentric English family but what makes this such a brilliant read for me is her sceptical approach to love Whether in her portraits of Linda s failed marriages, her affair with Fabrice de Sauveterre, or themundane marriages of Louisa and Fanny, Mitford refuses to offer up a rose tinted view of romance, quite unlike that of her charming if naive heroine, Linda It s this underlay of grit, however well disguised, that makes me love this book It s so spot on whether we re laughing at Uncle Matthew spluttering over bloody foreigners while gazing wistfully at the entrenching tool with which he battered seven Germans to death in the WW1 trenches, or the views we get of Spanish refugees flooding into France to escape Franco s fascist regime, or the glimpses of Dunkirk, the Blitz, and the work of the Free French and Resistance yes, these are background but they give a grounding of gravitas and a sprinkling of real pain that make this farthan elegantly written froth Oh, and that ending gets me every time
So, let me let Fanny tell us of Linda s adventuress with love We read about how Linda first fell in love, and what could she do but marryWhat could possibly have induced Linda to marry Anthony Kroesig What was she after, surely she could never possibly have been in love with him, what was the idea, how could it have happened He was admittedly very rich, but so were others and surely the fascinating Linda had only to choose The answer was, of course, that, quite simply, she was in love with him The first love soon turns into her first mistake, her lover upon closer acquaintance turned out to not have ever existed but in her imagination Differently, from what we might expect, Linda does not recriminates herself but persists in her quest for love And on comes Christian, an antithesis as a Communist to the wealthy Anthony Undoubtedly another mistake, as Fanny tells us I don t quite know why, but I felt somehow that Linda had been oncedeceived in her emotions, that this explorer in the sandy waste had seen only another mirage The lake was there, the trees were there, the thirsty camels had gone down to have their evening drink alas, a few steps forward would reveal nothing but dust and desert as before.
After these two failures, what else could we expect of Linda s prospects Other than that she did not know how to choose wiselyWhatever quality it is that can hold indefinitely the love and affection of a man she plainly did not possess, and now she was doomed to the lonely, hunted life of a beautiful but unattached woman Where now was love that would last to the grave and far beyond What had she done with her youth Tears for her lost hopes and ideals, tears of self pity in fact, began to pour down her cheeks.
However, with her third lover, a Frenchman named Fabrice who turns out to be a Duke, Linda seemed to have found the love of her life She was filled with a strange, wild, unfamiliar happiness, and knew that this was love Twice in her life, she had mistaken something else for it it was like seeing somebody on the street who you think is a friend, you whistle and wave and run after him, and it is not only not the friend, but not even very like him A few minutes later the real friend appears in view, and then you can t imagine how you ever mistook him.
In spite of her happiness, we are reminded that this was 1939, and the atmosphere was not one for love and lovers and their pleasures, on the contrary, it was a time of fighting and death When the war, which had for so long been pending, did actually break out some six weeks later, Linda was strangely unmoved by the fact She was enveloped in the present, in her own detached and futureless life, which, anyhow, seemed so precarious, so much from one hour to another exterior events hardly impinged on her consciousness When she thought about the war it seemed to her almost a relief that it had actually begun.
Linda, would have liked to think that she wasthan a little sin of the body, after living with the married Fabrice as his mistress, found herself that back in London Later, alone, she was welcome back by her parents, regardless of all her misadventures As is Fanny s mother, the Bolter, and always known for her immorality My mother sat in the hall drinking whisky and soda and the man with her a ruffian looking Spaniard called Juan Some confusion was caused in the household at first by the fact that none could remember whether she had, in the end, actually married the Major What astounds is that despite the moral criticism, there is never merciless censure It speaks of a familial affection and support that accepts into its core those who may have sinned This is beautifully revealed by Mitford, how the family lovingly envelopes the capricious child, as a certain destination in moments of sorrow So as we read on, we are positively surprised by the fact that all dark and sufferings, griefs and pains are quickly left behind for a brighter humorous tone.
The heroine in her quest for love if she even reminisces her last failures is with a little sorrow if she remembers it is with no real sense of loss Oh, don t pity me I ve had eleven months of perfect and unalloyed happiness, very few people can say that, in the course of long long lives, I imagine.
she rather focuses on the future and her new pursuits The future, with its infuriating promises of tenderness, is always there in her eager anticipation And at a crucial moment, she is taken back into the family s core, by the people that always adored her There is always hope, despite recent disasters, and never remorse That can be said of all characters in Mitford s novel, and in even minor details that end up sustaining them in their most challenging momentsYou ve sacked him, I hope Uncle Matthew said, suspiciously No, indeed, I ve not sacked him, said Davey, on the contrary, I ve engaged him My dears, you ll never guess, it s too glamourous for words, Juan is a cook, he was the cook, I gather, of some cardinal before the Civil War You don t mind I hope, Sadie I look upon this as an absolute lifeline Spanish food, so delicious, so unconstipating, so digestible, so full of glorious garlic Oh, the joy, nopoison burger how soon can we get rid of Mrs Beecher It was a miracle in such hard times Even Uncle Mattew acknowledge the change If I were the Bolter, he said, I should marry him The thing that made me think is that, despite the differences, we know people like those depicted by Mitford in her novel The Radletts, who were always either on a peak of happiness or drowning in black water of despair, are so like many people out there parents that don t prepare their children for the realities of life People that believe it is the outside world that needs to conform to their principles people whose offspring react the only way they know, by running off into the world where they don t know what they will find Regardless, here they are welcomed back and all ends supposedly well That is not always the case Nevertheless, Mitford writes with wit and an unmerciful courage for telling the story of her own family The Pursuit of Love is a wonderful satirical novel full of extraordinary characters Mitford expunges the glitter to expose the terrible disappointments that are inevitable in life Nevertheless, we are left with a feeling of optimism and faith.
Few Aristocratic English Families Of The Twentieth Century Enjoyed The Glamorous Notoriety Of The Infamous Mitford Sisters Nancy Mitford S Most Famous Novel, The Pursuit of Love Satirizes British Aristocracy In The Twenties And Thirties Through The Amorous Adventures Of The Radletts, An Exuberantly Unconventional Family Closely Modelled On Mitford S OwnThe Radletts Of Alconleigh Occupy The Heights Of Genteel Eccentricity, From Terrifying Lord Alconleigh Who, Like Mitford S Father, Used To Hunt His Children With Bloodhounds When Foxes Were Not Available , To His Gentle Wife, Sadie, Their Wayward Daughter Linda, And The Other Six Lively Radlett Children Mitford S Wickedly Funny Prose Follows These Characters Through Misguided Marriages And Dramatic Love Affairs, As The Shadow Of World War II Begins To Close In On Their Rapidly Vanishing World