There’s a certain Downton Abbey feel to this latest instalment of My Favourite Book, because I can’t help but associate that show with the chosen book. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean. But let me first introduce you to the contributor: Jessica Stanley. I love reading Jessica’s blog, as well as her work blog, Nextness. She always manages to find the most thought-provoking articles online, and reminds me that blogging can be a wonderful process of debate. She also happens to be an incredibly nice and cool person, and is currently working on an interesting project on advertising called WHY? with Victoria Hannan. When she sent me her guest post, I admit, I was gleefully overjoyed by it because I love this book too. So enjoy, and happy reading everyone:
Pursuit of Love is narrated by sensible, English Fanny, but her story is only incidental.
Really, the real focus is the high-strung, high-spirited Radlett family growing up in a mouldering old country house between the wars. They love animals, silliness, and huddling in a cupboard to chat; no one except the one boy (and Fanny) has to attend school. It’s a childhood almost precisely based on the author Nancy Mitford’s own, right down to the violently eccentric father rampaging in his dressing gown.
The beautiful Mitfords, real life Radletts, in 1922. Nancy is the oldest; the rest grew up to be 1 x socialist and author, 1 x Nazi and author, 1 x almost-Nazi and author, and 1 x Duchess and author. Lord Redesdale was the basis for the character of Uncle Matthew in his daughter Nancy’s book. “I have only ever read one book in my life, and that is White Fang. It’s so frightfully good I've never bothered to read another,” Nancy quotes him as saying. But he later revealed he read all his daughters’ books, and loved his dramatic portrayal.
In Pursuit, closest in age to Fanny is her cousin, and best friend, Linda - the most beautiful Radlett of all.
It’s Linda who’s in pursuit of love, and she has to make several very public mistakes to find it.
The first half sucks you in with its wit and lightness of touch. Like Linda, it never stops being beautiful and never stops making you laugh. But when World War II sweeps across Europe, the story is tinged with sadness. I reread Pursuit of Love so it was fresh in my mind for this post. My boyfriend came into the room while I was reading, and looked at how much I had still to go. “Ah, the last tenth,” he said. “You’re about to start crying.” I nodded. He kindly left me to it.
If you know something of Nancy Mitford’s life, the book is even sadder. It was dedicated to Gaston Palewski, hero of the French Resistance and thought to be the model for Linda’s lover Fabrice, duc de Sauveterre. Nancy only records his good side when she fictionalised their relationship.
You can read Pursuit of Love for its glamour. Or you can open your heart to it. Either way, just read it.
Image credits: Scanned from The Mitford Girls by Rag Pony.
Thank you Jessica!