Sometimes its important to revisit a favourite or long forgotten book. I read this book some years ago now, but when I came across this particularly pretty copy I knew it was time to revisit it.
As I imagine most people know, Nancy Mitford was one of the famous and glamorous Mitford sisters who came into their own during 20’s and 30’s London. Nancy wrote for The Lady and the Sunday Times. She wrote a number of novels, and “The Pursuit of Love” was based on her own experiences of growing up in an aristocratic family in a large remote country house with her five sisters and one brother. Nancy Mitford certainly referred to this as being largely autobiographical.
Although the story is narrated by Fanny, the daughter of the rather terrifying Lord Alcolnleigh, this is very much her cousin Linda’s story. Linda, is the daughter of a woman known as ‘The Bolter’ because of her tendency to abandon her family for the latest love affair. Consequently Linda is brought up mostly by her aunt, spending holidays with her brood of cousins. It’s during these times together that Linda and Fanny dream of growing up and finding Mr Right. Needless to say finding love true does not necessarily go to plan. Linda’s first marriage to a rather staid Tory MP collapses, she then runs off to Paris in pursuit of a dull communist and runs the risk of becoming a bolter herself, before she eventually finds her perfect love.
When she does find love, it is surprising and unexpected, and overwhelming all at once, but quite moving too. For despite Linda’s foolish and shallow ways, she is loving and kind and very difficult not to root for.
“For the first time since she knew him, Fabrice had become infinitely sentimental, and Linda was suddenly shaken by the terrible pangs of jealousy, so terrible that she felt quite faint. If she had not already recognized the fact, she would have known now, and for always that this was to be the great love of her life.”
I enjoy this novel for many reasons. In may on the surface appear frivolous and silly and yet it is also insightful and thoughtful. A lovely example of girlhood friendship and loyalty. Despite Linda’s questionable choices, Fanny remains a faithful friend and despite their separation she never falters in her loyalty and care for Linda
“Friendship is something to be built up carefully, by people with leisure, it is an art, nature does not enter into it. You should never despise social life – de la haute sauce – I mean it can be a very satisfying one, entirely artificial of course, but absorping”
There is also much humour to be had, often at the expense of Lord Alconleigh and Aunt Sadie. I suspect Nancy Mitford recognised the slightly ridiculous nature of the world she inhabited and used this novel to gently laugh perhaps both with, and at it. The combination of mad Lord Alconleigh, sensible and long suffering Aunt Sadie and the brood of hormonal teenagers is an endless source of humour and amusement.
“Linda and I were very much preoccupied with sin, and our great hero was Oscar Wilde. ‘But what did he do’?
I asked Fa once and he roared at me – goodness it was terrifying. He said “if you ever mention that sewer’s name again in this house I’ll thrash you, do you hear, damn you?”
So I asked Sadie and she looked awfully vague and said: “Oh duck, I never really quite one but whatever it was was worse than murder, fearfully bad. And darling, don’t talk about him at meals will you?”
A novel set in the period before and during the war, with a great cast of aristocrats, girls on the cusp of woman hood, cold country houses, gorgeous clothes and the glamour of Paris is a recipe for lots of fun. If you haven’t discovered Nancy Mitford and in particular, The Pursuit of Love, you may just want to add it to your list