I have officially finished my third Classics Club book!!! Hurray!!!
Technically, this wasn’t an original list member. However, I encountered a second hand two volume set of this and Love in a Cold Climate, which is on the list, so I decided to have a living list. This will not only guarantee that this challenge never ends, but also ensure there is always something ahead of Pilgrim’s Progress.
So, Nancy Mitford.
I’ve wanted to read her books for a while, but I can’t remember a specific reason why. Possibly because I am really interested in that period of history, or maybe because the Mitfords always seem like fascinating characters. Either way, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was fairly certain it would be a light book, and I expected romance. That was about all.
I was right on one count. It is a light book, and a funny book. However, it’s not really a romance, despite the title. There is love in it, but love isn’t really the same as romance. Generally it is a snapshot of the period, of the declining aristocracy and their fading traditions, as told through the story of Linda Radlett.
Linda is one of many children of Lord and Lady Alconleigh, living in a large country house in Somerset. Although the book is narrated by her cousin Fanny, it is Linda’s story and through her exploits we move from coming out balls and the idle aristocracy to the Spanish Civil War and the ideals of communism, to France before World War II. Aristocracy has become unpopular in the last thirty or forty years, and so I think this has become a bit of a unique perspective, Downton Abbey not withstanding. Lords are often depicted as oppressors, but Linda shows us what I imagine to be the true perspective of the aristocracy during that time; a necessary part of the class system, with a duty of care to those less fortunate. This duty does not, unfortunately, extend to Linda’s own child, who she rejects as dull and unappealing from the first.
The book mainly follows Linda’s love affairs, which to be honest are not at all romantic. Her first husband is Tony, a banker with Fascist leanings who wants a practical and capable wife with the same goals as him, namely advancing his career. Her second husband is Christian, the communist activist who cares far more for his causes that for Linda. And finally there is Fabrice, a Frenchman who picks her up at the Gare du Nord after she finds she has not enough money to return to England and installs her in a flat as a mistress. I found these relationships and Linda’s feelings whilst in them very realistic. They struck a chord with me, and reminded me that even though eighty years and reality separate Linda and I, human feelings are not that different.
This isn’t really a book with a message though. It is a fun book, with amusing characters. There is Uncle Matthew, Lord Alconleigh, a roaring man whose happiest moment was bashing Germans in World War I. There is Davey, Fanny’s sort-of-stepfather, a hypochondriac Captain who always has a new fangled health idea and is happily confident that he could die at any minute. And of course there is the Bolter, Fanny’s mother, who flits across the continent from man to man, and maybe provides the most realistic view of love at the end of the novel.
I really loved this, and am very much looking forward to Love in a Cold Climate. Hurray!
To see the full list, visit my Classics Club page. To join the fun, visit The Classics Club blog page.