Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Pursuit Of Love

by Nancy Mitford

A roman a clef, this book begins by describing the odd upbringing of the author's prominent family, here called the Radletts.  Six daughters grow up under the eccentric reign of their father (called "Uncle Matthew" by the narrator, cousin Fanny, who has come to live with them), who rages against foreigners and suitors, forms hatreds or admirations for others on a whim, and refuses to send his children to school.  In the style of the time, the daughters go to balls and are presented as "out," whereupon they marry.  One daughter, Linda, marries the son of a prominent banking family, but fails to find love with him or her next husband, a Communist activist.

Mitford details the ensuing scandals and the worries with subtle wit, balancing an almost-mocking, self-deprecating tone with the emotional tragedy of Linda’s tale.  The book is a deft satire of the upper classes, and has quite a few very funny scenes, such as when Fanny comes to visit Linda’s ugly baby, which the mother feel nothing for ("Pour soul," she says when it cries, "I think it must have caught sight of itself in a glass"). 

four stars

[followed by Love In a Cold Climate

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