My Favourite Book: Jessica Stanley

Thursday, 28 June 2012

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.

mitfords 1922

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!


louise said...

Oh I love this book. I love your description. I'm tempted to go read it again, right this second. xolj

Gracia said...

A favourite of mine too. Both it and Love in a Cold Climate are books I return to if only to leaf through again and again. Like Wodehouse, they comfort me. And like Louise, I am thinking a proper reread is in order soon.

Kate said...

It seems there will be a train of re-reading this book: I'm eyeing my old copy on the shelf right now...

B said...

Wow. It sounds like an absolutely wonderful read. Thank you for letting me know about it.

anne louise said...

okay, because i completely trust both of your opinions on books, hila and jess, i just ordered 'the complete novels of nancy mitford'.

if it's that good, i'll want to read the others, right?

thanks for the tip (it seems slightly more adult than my favourite book 'the secret garden'...)

Danielle P. said...

Oh, I hope this book is available from my library network! It sounds fascinating, and I look forward to being sucked into it. Thank you, Jessica!

rooth said...

I really enjoy these installments and will have to check out the book

Teresa said...

I haven't read this book but I really think I should! Thanks for such a wonderful review. It's usually through reviews like this that I find new books to read.

Rambling Tart said...

This book sounds absolutely wonderful! I'm going to the library website right now to see if I can track down a copy. :-)

Hila said...

Thanks guys! It sounds like Jessica's pick is a hit :) I hope you all enjoy the book.

Gisela said...

I read this post and then I immediately consulted't wait until "The pursuit of love" arrives!!!

Thank you!


Hila said...

I hope you enjoy it Gisela!

Claire said...

ooooooo! This is my favourite book too! I remember the first time I read it, I didn't end up getting any exam study done, then passed it onto my boyfriend of the time and he had the exact same problem haha! Lovely words, Jessica :)