Paris with Nancy Mitford

by Charlotte Reads Classics

This month I changed my mind about everything I wanted to read. I put Dickens to one side and I picked up a modern classic instead. A new reading love affair began with The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. Oh, it has been a whirlwind fling! Once I had finished the first book I immediately went and bought Love in a Cold Climate, The Blessing and Don’t Tell Alfred. I’ve devoured them all and I’m longing to go back to Paris!

Nancy Mitford writes brilliantly witty social commentaries about an age completely lost after the war. She writes about the difference between English and French aristocrats, their love affairs, high society and gossip. The characters are absolutely amazing; there were so many times I put the book down and said ‘You’ll never believe what has happened now!’ In a true testament to how original and enjoyable I found these novels: I feel exactly like Nancy opened a door into these characters lives and let me watch it all play out. I feel really sad that I’ve finished them, but know I’d happily re-read these books over and over again.

The Pursuit of Love is set in the English countryside. Alconleigh is a similar country house to the ones the Mitford girls grew up in. Fanny, the narrator, and her cousin become of age and start looking for love. The book mainly follows Fanny’s cousin Linda, whose marriages take he from conservative MPs in England to Communists in Spain before eventually finding true love in Paris. Fanny is autobiographically based on Nancy herself, and as a narrator she is fantastic. I was dying to know more about her!

Love in a Cold Climate follows Fanny as a newly married woman in Oxford. She tells the story of a childhood friend, Polly, and her marriage following her return to England from India. There are some brilliant characters and plenty of high society. I’m not sure why this is the referenced Nancy Mitford novel, I preferred The Pursuit of Love.

The Blessing is a full on Parisian extravaganza. The love affair is between Grace, and English girl and her french husband Charles-Edouard. Their son is a total brat and concocts many an elaborate scheme to keep them apart. Full of Parisian life and romance, this novel is a decadent indulgence, but has plenty of ridiculous characters to laugh at!

Don’t Tell Alfred is a (for me) much appreciated return to Fanny’s life. It takes place after her children have grown up, when her husband is unexpectedly given the job of Ambassador to Paris. It is only fair that Fanny gets to go to Paris too, I suppose! This is a slightly sad novel as it covers the changing attitudes of the younger generation.

What comes Next? I fancy going for WWII / 1930s-1950s  kind of books so expect Atonement, more Stella Gibbons, maybe even the beginning of The Forsyte SagaLittle Dorrit is not abandoned, but there is plenty of time for Dickens when I’m more in the mood. Ditto Clarissa. Meanwhile it’ll be a test to see if I can wait for payday before I buy Wigs on the Green – the last (in print) novel of Mitford’s left to read.