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The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
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The Pursuit of Love (original 1945; edition 2010)

by Nancy Mitford, Zoë Heller (Introduction)

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1,055277,963 (3.93)119
Member:lisacharlotte24
Title:The Pursuit of Love
Authors:Nancy Mitford
Other authors:Zoë Heller (Introduction)
Info:Penguin (2010), Edition: Re-issue, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1945)

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English (21)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
After some of the books I have read recently – interesting ones, but with prose that's ranged from workmanlike to experimental – it was a huge pleasure to indulge myself with a writer that has such perfect mastery over her sentences. This sparkling, clear-sighted and unromantic romantic comedy is a little chef d'œuvre of wit and dazzling conversation, in which Mitford deploys the same mannered levity to write about great tragedy that she does to describe an amusing misunderstanding at a dinner party.

Like innumerable British comedies from Shakespeare to The Office, the humour is founded on class differences. In fact, not the least pleasure in The Pursuit of Love comes from its value as English social history: splenetic Uncle Matthew, in particular, is a wonderfully ogreish character, roaring around his country estate, hunting his children with hounds, and bursting into apoplexy if his daughters use such deplorably middle-class vocabulary as notepaper, mantelpiece, mirror or perfume. (Mitford is confident that discerning readers will know, without being told, that one must instead say writing-paper, chimneypiece, looking-glass and scent; and instead of spending a weekend at Alconleigh, you will be invited to spend ‘a Saturday to Monday’ there.)

Uncle Matthew is not a literary man – the only book he's ever read is White Fang – and I did enjoy the passage where he was dragged to a performance of Romeo and Juliet:

It was not a success. He cried copiously, and went into a furious rage because it ended badly. ‘All the fault of that damned padre,’ he kept saying on the way home, still wiping his eyes. ‘That fella, what's 'is name, Romeo, might have known a blasted papist would mess up the whole thing. Silly old fool of a nurse too, I bet she was an RC, dismal old bitch.’

Uncle Matthew is a thinly-disguised portrait of Baron Redesdale, Nancy Mitford's father, and it's tempting, though not quite possible, to read the whole book as a roman à clef. In fact, our heroine, Linda Radlett, is a kind of amalgam of all the Mitford sisters.

As the title suggests, the book is broadly about her search for love, and yet despite the witty tone and the extraordinary lightness of touch, the plot itself is shot through with flashes of cruelty and tragedy. Such things can be borne, though, the book suggests; and are even, perhaps, preferable to a life of uneventful blandness.

[T]hey could not stand boredom. Storms and difficulties left them unmoved, but day after day of ordinary existence produced an unbearable torture of ennui…

Linda seems on the verge of this with some of her unhappy relationships. I loved her failure to adapt to household domesticity:

‘But oh how dreadful it is, cooking, I mean. That oven – Christian puts things in and says: “Now you take it out in about half an hour.” I don't dare tell him how terrified I am, and at the end of half an hour I summon up all my courage and open the oven, and there is that awful hot blast hitting one in the face. I don't wonder people sometimes put their heads in and leave them in out of sheer misery.’

Laughter, once cultivated, is never far away in this book, or in the lives of its most appealing characters; and this is what allows you to cope with the many disasters that life is likely to throw at you.

The understated wit has been mistaken for lack of feeling, but the emotions are real and deep – what's carefully controlled is how we choose to talk about it. Even the book's cursory, tragic ending can be accepted (I say this as someone who hates unhappy endings), because it is so obviously done for the sake of neatness. And this is a very neat book – slim, fitted, elegant, really an unalloyed delight. ( )
  Widsith | May 9, 2015 |
The novel is set in the late 1930's deals with a family of aristocrats in England. The Radlett family live in their country estate in Gloucestershire. The family consists of an ever increasing brood of kids but we follow the life of Linda. Linda, with her love for hunting and head strong attitude, goes through her life living just for the moment and almost instinctually. She falls in and out of love, marries several times and is happy and unhappy violently.

The writing is witty and satirical. It does not take itself too seriously and as our heroine wants to have a jolly good time so do we. It has moments of wisdom and melancholia but they are few and apt. A good read. Some may label it as chick lit but who cares. I enjoyed reading it and that's all that matters. A 4/5 starred read. ( )
  mausergem | Apr 20, 2015 |
According to critic Rachel Cooke, this novel "is an entirely authentic picture of country house life in England between the wars, and will long be consulted by historians of the period". The story is told through the eyes of Fanny who is a cousin to Linda who the novel is really about. Linda was an emotional but high spirited child who frequently challenged her eccentric and cruel father. One way she did this was to release animals from his traps. He in turn used to exercise the hounds by having the children take the role of the fox.

Her first marriage was against the advice of friends and both her family & the family of the groom. It didn't last long. Her next was to a Communist who was so focused on his politics, he had no time for a wife. Failure again.

The narrative is full of eccentric characters who express and hold unusual beliefs. The best example is Captain Warbeck whose main concern was his colon and diet. He was definitely ahead of his time for he sounded just like some of my health food addict friends. Through witty comments made by the characters, Mitford achieves her humour and satire about the life of these upper class snobs.
  lamour | Mar 21, 2015 |
I read something that said that you either obsessively love Nancy Mitford or you despise her. I found myself somewhere in between, closer to love, wanting to read more, but very far from blown away. The comparison's to Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh seem particularly far from the mark. As is the idea that it is witty, sophisticated mid-century chick lit.

The strength of The Pursuit of Love is several of the larger-than-life characters, especially the gruff, rural lord Uncle Matthew and his more sophisticated neighbor Lord Merlin, but many others as well. The particular elements of the story are engaging as well, but they do not completely fit together as a well constructed novel in the vein of Jane Austen or your typical chick lit. You followed everyone of the main character's love affairs with interest, but without any particular degree of passion or caring. And it certainly didn't end in the form of comedy. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Found the title in The Uncommon Reader. Quite fun. Quirky family in the English countryside. Just my sort of thing. Three and a half stars. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nancy Mitfordprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pym, RolandIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Singer, MalvinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vickers, HugoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Gaston Palewski
First words
There is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea-table at Alconleigh.
Quotations
We worked hard, mending and making and washing, doing any chores for Nanny rather than actually look after the children ourselves. I have seen too many children brought up without Nannies to think this at all desirable. In Oxford, the wives of progressive dons did it often as a matter of principle; they would gradually become morons themselves, while the children looked like slum children and behaved like barbarians.
"Education! I was always led to suppose that no educated person ever spoke
of notepaper, and yet I hear poor Fanny asking Sadie for notepaper. What is
this education? Fanny talks about mirrors and mantelpieces, handbags and
perfume, she takes sugar in her coffee, has a tassel on her umbrella, and I
have no doubt that if she is ever fortunate enough to catch a husband she
will call his father and mother Father & Mother. Will the wonderful
education she is getting make up to the unhappy brute for all these endless
pinpricks? Fancy hearing one's wife talk about notepaper - the irritation!'

... `She'll get a husband all right, even if she does talk about lunch, and
*en*velope, and put the milk in first.'
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Note: wrong product description printed below! Most likely due to erroneous ISBN. The Pursuit of Love is a humorous portrayal of an eccentric upper-class British family (a thinly-disguised version of the Mitfords) in Britain during the 1920s-40s. Narrated fondly by cousin Fanny, the novel focuses on Linda Radlett and her efforts to find true love and fulfillment.
I think this edition has the wrong ISBN -- it appears to be the same as a book called Who Has Your Heart by Emily E. Ryan.
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The snobbery and false values of the English country nobility are satirized in these two love stories involving the well-established Radlett and Hampton families.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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