Book Review: ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford

“He was the great love of her life you know.’
‘Oh, dulling,’ said my mother, sadly, ‘One always thinks that. Every, every time.”

― Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love

I put ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ on my #theclassicsclub list and I thought writing a review for the first book will refresh my memory of the plot and the characters.

Our narrator in ‘The Pursuit of Love’ is Fanny, whose parents had separated and brought up by her aunt and uncle. During holidays, Fanny spends her time in her other relatives, the Radlett’s. One of their daughters, Linda, is Fanny’s best friend and the main character of the story. The Radlett children’s education was rather eccentric – the girls did not receive a good education, they were not sent to school while Fanny, raised by her sensible Aunt Emily did. During a family dinner though, Linda’s father, Uncle Matthew, made a comparison of the two girls’ education by asking them what they knew about George III. Fanny’s answer was simple and she was embarrassed for herself and her aunt (who was arguing with Uncle Matthew for she believes that a woman had to be able to support herself), while Linda’s answer was illustrious and full of dramatic quotes. Here, we will see the differences between the two that will explain Linda’s future actions when she’s older.

All the same, my aunt was right, and I knew it and she knew it. The Radlett children read enormously by fits and starts in the library at Alconleigh (...). But while they picked up a great deal of heterogeneous information, and gilded it with their own originality, while they bridged gulfs of ignorance with their charms and high spirits, they never acquired any habit of concentration, they were incapable of solid hard work. One result, later in life, was that they could not stand boredom. Storms and difficulties left the unmoved, but day after day of ordinary existence produced unbearable torture of ennui, because they completely lacked any form of mental discipline.

When they were older, Louisa, Linda’s older sister, got married to a man twenty years her senior. Although the man was boring, Linda was still jealous of Louisa because she desired romance and great love to the point that it consumed her. During this time, through a friend, Linda was introduced to an heir of a wealthy banking family, Tony Kroesig, and soon they started a relationship. Uncle Matthew, Linda’s father, disapproved of it but the couple got married anyway. However, Linda soon realised her mistake. After several years of pretending, Linda finally left Tony for Christian, an ardent communist. The couple then moved to France to help refugee during the Spanish Civil War. But Linda’s story did not end with Christian.

Through Fanny’s, who led a safe and calm life with her husband Alfred, we see in contrast, Linda’s dramatic journey in her pursuit of love. Though it started quite light and hilarious, the story gets heavier towards the end, as the weight of the war was looming in.

‘It’s rather sad’, she said, one day, ‘to belong as we do, to a lost generation. I’m sure in history the two wars will count as one war, and that we shall be squashed out of it altogether, and people will forget that we ever existed. We might just as well never have lived at all. I do think it’s a shame.’

I really enjoyed The Pursuit of Love and planning to read the sequel, Love in a Cold Climate soon. Nancy Mitford

This edition is published by Penguin, 2015.

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