by Nancy Mitford
The sequel to The Pursuit of Love, this book has Fanny (married to a husband who may as well not exist, for the purposes of the book) watching in amazement as Polly, the great beauty of the season and daughter of the socially-conscious and fabulously wealthy Lady Montdore, refuses all suitors until finally claiming a husband amid such scandal she is disinherited. Enter Cedric, a fabulously outré homosexual, who now stands to inherit all, and who becomes fast friends with Lady Montdore, introducing her to all manner of self-improvement and Continental ideas about fashion.
As amusing as the first book was, this sequel is easily its superior; the officious, deluded, condescending Lady Montdore and the larger than life, colorful Cedric are both brilliant characters: unforgettable, unpredictable, hilarious, and strangely alluring despite their flaws. The humor here is also less subdued, less sly than in the previous book: Lady Montdore sniffs that hardly anyone had heard of India until her cipher of a husband served as secretary there; Uncle Matthew comes upon Cedric in a shop and is so overcome with rage at his coat with contrasting colored piping that he begins shaking him, like a dog with a rat. Mitford somehow makes all her characters, no matter how outlandish, also sympathetic, this is true even of the nasty Boy Dougdale, who is some sort of sexual predator and pedophile and ends up in a miserable, loveless marriage. Everyone dismisses Boy’s groping of the underage Radlett sisters with a shudder and a shrug, as merely a breach in manners rather than a loathsome crime. Well, it was a different age.