Friday, February 08, 2013

The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate

By Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of Love: The story is narrated by Fanny, cousin of the main character Linda. Linda lives in the country and doesn't get to town much. Fortunately for Linda, Lord Merlin, a nearby neighbor, does get to town and he brings his town friends out to his estate, where Linda gets to meet the man who will be her first husband, Tony. Tony's family is in banking and are wealthy. Tony works in the family business and his parents want him to marry well, to a girl with good connections who will be a credit to Tony. Instead, he falls for Linda, mainly because she is young and beautiful and because she thinks Tony is swell. So they get married, to the disapproval of the parents on both sides. Tony's parents say Linda doesn't have the right connections and Linda's parents ( her father, mainly) don't like Tony's background (he is of German ancestry). It isn't too far into the marriage before Linda and Tony realize they have made a mistake. Tony is too stodgy to suit Linda and Linda is too flighty to suit Tony.
Linda meets another man, Christian, a Communist. Something about Christian strikes Linda's fancy and she is soon tagging after him like a lost puppy. She divorces hubby number one and marries hubby number too and toddles off with him to France to help war refugees. But her marriage begins to flounder with  Christian's growing attachment to another woman, a fellow aid worker.

I didn't really care for this story, mainly because the main character, Linda, did not appeal to me. Her behavior throughout the story is selfish, foolish, and disgusting. Nothing in her story made me like her, made me want her to have a happy ending, made me care about her.

Love in a Cold Climate: Set in the same time period as the first novel, this one centers on another aristocratic family living in the same area as Linda did before she grew up and left home. Once again the story is narrated by Fanny, the rather ordinary observer of her more beautiful relatives. The beautiful girl of this story is Polly, who is described as the leading beauty of her generation and also one of the richest, her father being one of the wealthiest men in England.
Polly came as a total surprise to her parents who had been married for twenty years without having children. But from early childhood, Polly was admired and acclaimed for her  beauty. As she grew into her teen years, though, her mother became increasingly dissatisfied with her daughter because Polly seemed to have no interest in boys.
By the time Polly was twenty, relations between the two were very strained, Polly confiding to Fanny that she absolutely hated her mother, she was so very tired of her mother's constant pressure on her to find a husband. But in the end Polly does find a husband, a husband that sets everyone on edge and causes a complete rift between Polly and her parents.

I like this story so much more than the first one. I thought it was quite a bit funnier and, even though Polly is not really a very sympathetic character, at least she is not doted on unreasonably like that horrible Linda. Although, oddly both books have very similar endings. There is a third book in the series, Don't Tell Alfred, I wonder who the author killed off at the end of it?

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