Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Pursuit of Love: Nancy Mitford

This is a witty, entertaining look at the strange lives of aristocratic families. I think all families are weird in their own ways, but it is interesting to see that people in all economic circumstances have to deal with embarrassing or eccentric family members. My family was not well-to-do at all, yet we had some family members very much like the Radletts.

The Pursuit of Love was published in 1946, so it is the picture of an aristocratic family from an earlier time. The story is roughly based on members of Nancy Mitford's family, and I still haven't read enough about them to know which ones. And I think I preferred reading it that way.


This is the story of Linda Radlett, told by her cousin Fanny. Linda, daughter of Matthew and Sadie Radlett, grows up at Alconleigh with her five siblings. Fanny tells anecdotes from their childhood, and about Linda's love life as they grow older. The story continues into the years before and during World War II. Linda's choices in love and marriage are not very wise.

I enjoyed reading this book. I wasn't sure I would, but it worked well for me. Although the story is told with humor, I cared about the characters and was tearful at the end. I liked the depiction of the years between the early 1900s and into World War II, whether or not it was totally realistic.

Some of the characters are wonderful, or at least fun to read about. Matthew Radlett is a bully and an autocrat, but means well. Uncle Davey is a hypochondriac and very particular about what he eats. Fanny's mother brings a Spanish boyfriend home during the war, and it turns out he is a fantastic cook. The loyalty of the family to all its members is a joy.


One complaint I have, which has nothing to do with the writing, is that the text on the cover of the 1949 paperback edition I read is totally wrong. There is no point in the book, at least not that I remember or could find, where Linda's uncles chide her for being a kept woman (front cover) or living in sin (back cover). That is a total misrepresentation. In fact, they love her very much and want only her happiness. All in all, it is a lovely story and I am glad I read it.



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Publisher:  Pocket Books, 1949 (orig. pub. 1946).
Length:   230 pages
Format:   Paperback
Series:    Radlett and Montdore #1
Setting:   UK
Genre:    Fiction
Source:   I bought my copy in December 2018.


20 comments:

Cath said...

I must get around to reading this as I have probably read enough about the sisters to judge who is who. The BBC drama is getting mixed reviews. I didn't watch the first episode, I can catch it on BBC iPlayer if I want, but I think I want to read the book first. I have read a book of Nancy's essays which I thought were excellent and very 'her' from what her youngest sister, Debo, says in her books.

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, I'd heard this was good, Tracy. And it does sound as though it takes a solid and entertaining look at families. I'm glad you enjoyed it. And I couldn't agree more on cover material that says nothing about the book. I don't like spoilers in descriptions and blurbs, but I do like accuracy.

TracyK said...

Cath, I am sure you would enjoy this book knowing as much as you do about the Mitfords. I would definitely read the book first, then the adaptation.

I will have to seek out the book of Nancy Mitford's essays. I have just started reading essays (started with a book of Anne Fadiman's essays), and have recently purchased one by E. B. White.

I hope I can get to Mary S. Lovell's biography of the Mitford Sisters soon. I started a huge book about racism in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1960s three months ago and it is such a difficult read that I am having difficulty making progress on it. But it is important to me to finish it before I move on to something else.

TracyK said...

Margot, I do like books about families, and I think it was that dynamic that was the most appealing about the book.

Katrina said...

I read this one when I was a teenager and then again about twenty years later, I think I'm due a re-read but I might just make do with watching the TV series. The Lovell biography is very good.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I look forward to reading that biography. It sounds very interesting.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

Haha, I guess the "living in sin" part was just intended to sensationalize the blurb and grab more readers! I haven't read the book, but I *have* seen the older TV series where they clubbed it as Love in a Cold Climate. It was enjoyable, but I wasn't a fan. I've heard there's a new 2021 version too with Lily James (a popular choice these days?) -- going to check that out.
~Lex

Christine said...

One of my very favourite books, Tracy. I am glad you enjoyed it.

TracyK said...

Lex, I am sure you are right and I do like this edition anyway. I don't think the new version of Love in a Cold Climate is available here yet. I think I can get the earlier adaptation on Britbox / Amazon Prime. Will have to look into that more.

TracyK said...

Christine, I was surprised that I liked it so much. I already know I will want to read it again someday.

Judith said...

Hi Tracy,
I've always been meaning to read Nancy Mitford's fiction. This sounds like it would be fun and interesting. I'll put her and this title on my list. Thanks! Hope you are all doing well.

TracyK said...

Judith, I think Nancy Mitford's fiction is worth a try. I hope you enjoy this one if you read it. We are all doing fine. My husband will be retiring in 3 weeks and we are both looking forward to that.

Sam Sattler said...

Along the lines of what Cath said up above about the BBC drama getting mixed reviews, this is a quote from a Times of London article in today's paper about the show:

"How is it possible to love something while being aware of its many flaws? The new adaptation of Nancy, sorry, Nency Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love is, as she would say, meddening: it is filled with flat, strange performances. But it is also so exuberant and hilariously confident, you just get swept along with its glittering self-adoration. Being tittily, tittily, in love with ainself is, after all, very much the Mitford approach to life."

If nothing else, the Mitfords are as fascinating a family today as they ever were.

TracyK said...

Sam, thanks for including that quote about the new series. I will definitely give it a try if it is indeed available on Amazon Prime eventually. I may give the 2001 Love in a Cold Climate a try; my husband did find it on Prime, but since it mashes together two books, I should probably wait.

I am currently reading a very long, very difficult non-fiction book about Birmingham, Alabama. Otherwise I would start the Mitford girls biography right now.

CLM said...

I enjoyed this years ago and have two different nonfiction books about the Mitford sisters I have meant to read - I am afraid nonfiction does not appeal to me as much these days. I would like to watch one of the miniseries.

Tracy, the weirdest thing - I wrote a review of Fer-de-Lance and it has completely disappeared! I suppose it is possible I didn't save it or just imagined it in my head while I was reading but both those seem unlikely. I am quite mystified because I thought I finished the review before returning the book to the library.

TracyK said...

Constance, Cath at Read-warbler wrote a post yesterday about one of her posts disappearing. In her case she got an email from her explaining that they had reviewed and deleted the post due to possible malware (that is my much abbreviated version). Other bloggers said that they had had similar issues. She deleted a spam email message for that post and later the post reappeared. I hope your problem gets fixed too.

col2910 said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it Tracy, but it isn't one that appeals to me.

TracyK said...

I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much, Col.

Brona said...

This sounds like the perfect light relief after The Mirror and the Light!

TracyK said...

It is the total opposite of The Mirror and the Light, Brona, but both are very good reads in their own way.