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A Talent to Annoy: Essays, Articles and Reviews, 1929-68
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Nancy Mitford was one of the famous Mitford Sisters who so delighted, enraged and scandalized Europe and America, particularly during the inter-war years. This collection of some of her essays, articles and reviews...plus many excerpts from her letters to Evelyn Waugh and others...provides an interesting picture of anything upon which she turns her particular upper-class, somewhat right-wing, astringent gaze. One can see where the title came from; there is a dry, cutting edge to many of her pieces ("Rome is a capital city only in name; in fact...it is a village...centered around the vicarage.") that I find delightful but, were you to be the target, might annoy.
Some of the pieces, particularly her work for
, are humorous, short essays: "The Shooting Party: Some Hints for the Woman Guest" and "The Secret History of a London Wedding". These display a disarmingly uncomplicated style...simple reflections that make no overt effort to make the reader laugh and, therefore, do so quite easily. When I reflect upon them, I realize that they were simple much in the same way that a top athlete makes what he or she does seem simple.
Other entries illuminate a small moment in history, such as "The Last to be Broken on the Wheel", that details the end of that particular practice in France. Or, they might provide her commentary on the events she experienced in her life: "France, May 1968: A Revolution Diary Parts I & II".
The only thing that keeps this from being a 4-star book for me is that I don't speak French. She expects that her reader does, particularly in the series of articles she wrote (at Ian Fleming's arrangement) from Paris for
The Sunday Times
. In these pieces, many of the punchlines are in French. While I can puzzle out a few, it is a lot of effort and many are simply beyond me.
Worth reading...if you speak French, definitely worth reading. I shall certainly seek out some of her novels, particularly those feature the upper-class society of Great Britain of which her family were eccentric members.
| Mar 22, 2009 |
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