Utter, utter bliss…

I was just in amongst the fiction shelves and found a lovely hardback edition of Nancy Mitford’s famous novels, all in one volume. The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford – it really is gorgeous. The introduction is by clever, thoughtful and funny writer India Knight.

Nancy Mitford (1904-1973) was born in London, the eldest child of the second Baron Redesdale. Her childhood in a large remote country house with her five sisters and one brother (killed in WWII) is recounted in the early chapters of The Pursuit of Love (1945), which according to the author, is largely autobiographical. Yes, he did use to hunt them with his dogs – they all thought it was great fun… It solidified the cult of the Mitford sisters, who had already long been objects of fascination, loathing and adulation. They were an extremely varied bunch: variously writers, beauties, a communist, a fascist, and one sister in thrall to Adolf Hitler, relationships and marriages to aristocrats and politicians of all stripes and types. They all seem to have lived with intensity and passion, if not necessarily wisely or even admirably.

Nancy’s books are really good – there is a reason beyond Tatler-like adoration of the British upper classes to read and enjoy them. The writing is sparkling, witty and slightly poignant, a world and its characters are created that seem very real but there is a sense that it is a world that is disappearing almost as it is created, brittle as a meringue. If you haven’t already, why not try one this year…

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