Has anyone read Nancy Mitford's books?

(82 Posts)
Kasterborous Wed 01-May-13 16:32:33

I was wondering if anyone has read them and would have an idea if I would like them or not. My favourite recent reads have been some of Kate Atkinson's books and Kate Morton, they are some of my favourites. I've seen they have got an omnibus edition of Nancy Mitford on Amazon at a good price and would keep me going for a while.

Portofino Wed 01-May-13 16:40:56

I love them personally.

Portofino Wed 01-May-13 16:41:38

Ps I also really enjoy Kate Atkinson.

recall Wed 01-May-13 16:44:33

I also love them, but haven't read the ones you mentioned

louisianablue2000 Wed 01-May-13 16:52:17

I've read love in a cold climate and the pursuit of love. Very clever and funny. If you like Wodehouse you'll probably like them, or Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons possibly. They have the same light feel. I've not read any of her non-fiction but the French biographies are suppose to be good as well.

I haven't read any kate atkinson though so no idea what her books are like so can't compare.

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 01-May-13 16:55:16

I love them, especially Love in a Cold Climate, Pursuit of Love and the Blessing. Her pre war books are more of a period piece, imo.

Her historical biographies are a rip roaring read - they read like her novels. Just reading Madame de Pompadour at the moment.

Her letters are very good as well, Letters from Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley is a good compendium, very funny to read.

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 16:56:29

Once you've read the pursuit of love you'll understand my username.

They are utterly delicious. I LOVE them.

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 01-May-13 16:57:51

grin chubfuddler

I have had legions of Mitford inspired names, last one something like LordAlconburysEntrenchingTool

MumOfTheMoos Wed 01-May-13 16:59:39

I read them all about 20 odd years go, loved them, plus love Kate Atkinson.

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 17:02:08

I was daveywarbeck for a while.

Kasterborous Wed 01-May-13 17:08:36

Well with a name like Chubfuddler coming from the books I don't think I will be able to resist.

Repeatedlydoingthetwist Wed 01-May-13 17:30:05

I second GetOrf, Letters is an excellent read. As is The Mitford Girls I find them all so fascinating.

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 01-May-13 17:33:58

Yes Mitford Girls by Mary Lovell is very good.

And the PICTURES. You could wear Nancy Mitford's wedding dress in 2013 and be considered utterly stylish.

piprabbit Wed 01-May-13 17:39:55
Badvoc Wed 01-May-13 17:42:00

I love them.
Am reading dont tell Alfred ATM!
Agree if you like pg Wodehouse you will probably like them.

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 17:42:47

I am so embarrassed. The chubfuddler is not in the pursuit of love. He's in love in a cold climate.

<the shame>

I must admit that she doesn't do much at all for me. I detest Kate Morton and get v annoyed by Kate Atkinson though (except Behind The Scenes...) so you might love them! Deffo worth a go, I'd say.

Haberdashery Wed 01-May-13 17:44:35

Brilliant brilliant books. The description of ducks mating remains one of my favourite ever lines from any book.

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 17:45:32

I think they are as good literature as Waugh and f Scott Fitzgerald and they get looked down on because they're by a rich, titled woman.

The first page of the pursuit of love is one of the best opening of a book I have ever read, and I've read a lot. It never fails to make me misty eyed.

EmilyAlice Wed 01-May-13 17:47:05

I love them, they are my ultimate comfort reading. We have the TV series of Love in a Cold Climate on DVD. This is the original one with Judi Dench as Aunt Sadie not the later version. Michael Williams is utterly perfect as Davey Warbeck.

LifeofPo Wed 01-May-13 17:50:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 01-May-13 17:59:10

I've read The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, Don't Tell Alfred, and The Blessing. Loved them all. Now I want to re-read them smile

I remember the original TV series with Judi Dench too EmilyAlice smile

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 01-May-13 18:01:18

The end line of Pursuit of Love is so, so bittersweet.

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 18:12:48

I'm going to start writing the names of people I don't like on pieces of paper and putting them in drawers like uncle Matthew.

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 18:13:21

Oh don't getorf you'll make me bulb.

I love the bolter.

Gigondas Wed 01-May-13 18:17:09

It is getorf but the more I read her books the better I like it.

Badvoc Wed 01-May-13 18:17:59

Pursuit of love is my fave getorf.
That last line is a cracker.
So true and so sad.
And by far and away her most auto biographical novel.

Kasterborous Wed 01-May-13 18:37:17

I've ordered it its got : Highland Fling, Christmas Pudding, Wigs on the Green, Pigeon Pie, The Pursuit of Love, Love in a cold Climate, The Blessing, and Don't tell Alfred. Looking forward to reading it.

piprabbit Wed 01-May-13 18:38:37

If you enjoy the Mitfords, you might also like "Miss Pettigrew lives for a Day".

Repeatedlydoingthetwist Wed 01-May-13 19:36:01

Yes!! That's a fab book, I did enjoy it.

Love, love, love Miss Pettigrew. You might like, 'The Bolter' too (non-fiction).

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 01-May-13 20:51:06

Yes, agree it is autobiographical. Especially when Sauveterre goes away and she leans out the window and says goodbye, then goes and cries on the bed.

She didn't have much luck with men, nancy. There is a good book about her life with Palewski, called The Horror of Love.

Reading her book about Madame de Pompadour, makes the French court of Louis XV sound like Linda, Fanny et al.

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 21:05:07

Mmmmmm Fabrice. Why don't I ever get picked up in a train station by someone who turns out to be fabulously wealthy duke?

Badvoc Wed 01-May-13 21:07:37

Hmmm...why is it that clever, smart, funny women like nancy (and Dorothy Parker for another) had such unhappy love lives?
Both tried suicide more than once, both ended up with men who did not love them and treated them badly.
Is it true that great talent necessitates great pain?

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 21:11:08

Perhaps they're too romantically minded to be truly pragmatic about relationships and too intelligent not to notice that things aren't right. It just bad luck.

bassingtonffrench Wed 01-May-13 21:15:10

nancy mitford is fabulous, but i didn't get on at all with her historical biographies. Pursuit of Love is one of the best things I have ever read though.

love the wedding dress. Marriage not a great success though, as I recall?!

bassingtonffrench Wed 01-May-13 21:18:05

ah yes, that point has already been made I see.

She was a great writer, but perhaps she was unlucky in love because she was in fact not a very nice person? lots of accounts of her 'teasing' her sisters to tears and generally being awful?

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 01-May-13 21:21:02

She was a bit of a cow I think, her sister sums her up I think nicely in her autobiography, she could be wonderfully kind and also incdibly horrible, very generous as well as being very mean as well. Complex character really, but to be honest they all were, those sisters, it seems.

bassingtonffrench Wed 01-May-13 21:24:23

yes, which sister was that then?

god I really am a mitford groupie!

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 21:25:41

Decca I think, the communist one. Jassy running off after Carey goon (or was it Gary coon?) in POL is based on her eloping with an unsuitable distant cousin

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 01-May-13 21:41:58

Sorry, Debo the Duchess of Devonshire, her autobiography Wait forMe

Chubfuddler Wed 01-May-13 21:46:17

Did I ever tell you about the time I met debo and she admired DS? I may have trotted that out a few times.

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Wed 01-May-13 22:22:06

I love Nancy Mitford, she is very funny but also I think a more serious writer than she is generally given credit for.
Read the collected letters between her and Evelyn Waugh - but don't do it in a public place, unless you want people to stare at the crazy woman emitting snorts of hilarity every 2 minutes who will be you.'
I visited Swinbrook churchyard a while ago - paid respects to Nancy, snubbed horrible Nazi Diana.

TheCeejOfWinterfell Wed 01-May-13 23:53:10

'a rather unsuitable distant cousin' was the fabulously named Esmond Romilly, who I completely fell in love with too after reading Hons and Rebels.

I love Decca. I love them all, but the letters make it clear that they took no prisoners and were all very snidey as well as funny. I'd have been terrified of Nancy if I'd ever met her.

Badvoc Thu 02-May-13 08:02:44

I don't think one can like nancy as a person tbh.
She was utterly vile at times, and for no other reason than boredom or jealousy as far as I can see.
But her writing is sublime.
If only the reedesdales had believed in sending girls to school...they would all have been so much happier and less susceptible to the more radical ideas some of them espoused.

TheCeejOfWinterfell Thu 02-May-13 09:43:53

I love this thread.

I can say 'Do admit' without getting the hmm.

GetOrfMoiLand Thu 02-May-13 09:55:26

Chub yes I remember you saying that Debo complimented your baby but do tell again - I hope she is a lovely as she seems.

The only one who went to school was Unity - she was sacked for saying something sacrilegious iirc. And look what happened to her.

I know she is a deeply unpleasant character but the name - Unity Valkyrie - that is a wonderful name.

Badvoc Thu 02-May-13 10:05:30

All of them were a bit unpleasant IMHO, just in a different way.
Nancy was cruel, Diana was vain and facsist, unity was quite frankly unbalanced, decca was angry. Pam and debo seem to have been fairly normal, but both were very unlike their sisters and so were treated badly by them.
Tom died so young it's hard to know what he would have become.
Their mother was a very odd woman, unhappy in her marriage (she told nancy she nearly left with another man when she was 2 years old) and distant from her children.
She had some odd ideas about health too, refusing to vaccinate her children (this is pre mmr obv) and forcing a doctor to operate in nancy on the kitchen table!
Their father was a bully and had anger issues too. Boasted that he only ever read one book in his life (white fang).
Fascinating, though!

TheCeejOfWinterfell Thu 02-May-13 10:11:24

Didn't Unity add 'rot' onto a line in a poem that ended 'God wot'?


Badvoc Thu 02-May-13 10:12:01

I think so, yes smile

Chubfuddler Thu 02-May-13 10:38:32


Well we were at church and she was there with prince Charles (as happens in the country) DS was about a year old and was fussing so I took him out and sat in the lovely little porch thingy till the end of the service. At the end they came out first and she stopped and was cooing over him. She was all twinkly and lovely.

bassingtonffrench Thu 02-May-13 11:14:51


i think debo has an elvis obsession which makes me like her a lot.

but her autobiography is not a patch on nancy's writing

GetOrfMoiLand Thu 02-May-13 11:21:21

That is a lovely story about Debo. Blimey though at just happening to be in church with a Duchess and the heir to the throne. grin

Her autobiography is very sweet, extraordinary times to live through (the last season before the war, living through the war itself, the Kennedys, restoring Chatsworth etc). I think Chatsworth is lovely - not at all like some other staid stately homes, I remember that there were loads of children and dogs in the grounds paddling in the water features and playing ball games. Incredibly relaxed.

I like her story of taking a goat and a dog from the outer hebrides to London via train when war broke out, then getting a cab at the other end and putting the goat in Nancy's garden (where it ate all the flowers).

bassingtonffrench Thu 02-May-13 11:34:21

yes, her life story is amazing. especially when she married the 'poor' second son who ended up inheriting, but then they had a huge tax bill because the father died young whilst being attended by a serial killer doctor

you couldn't make it up really.

GetOrfMoiLand Thu 02-May-13 11:47:44

Yes, that serial killer doctor who killed her father in law was a bit shocking. And if her FIL had lived for another 18 weeks or something they would have avoided death duties (think the duke handed the estate over in the 40s but would have to live 7 years or something to be exempt from inheritance tax or something).

JassyRadlett Thu 02-May-13 11:50:23

Chub, that's a lovely story.

Another Mitford devotee here, as the username might suggest. And loving some of the usernames on this thread...

Any advances on The Pursuit of Love being Nancy's absolute best?

GetOrfMoiLand Thu 02-May-13 12:18:06

No, I agree Pursuit of Love is her very best. I have read some critics who have said that Love in a Cold Climate is her best novel, but I think PoL has the edge.

Mind you Lady Montdore is fantastic. Her put downs are wonderful. That thing she says about some ugly girl training to be a vet instead of doing the season 'best thing she could have done. Can't have girls like that cluttering up the ballrooms - simply not fair on anyone' <paraphrase>

Badvoc Thu 02-May-13 12:39:35

Pursuit of love is the best

Chubfuddler Thu 02-May-13 12:45:55

Ah but doesn't she say that about tony krosig's sister? Is that in POL?

GetOrfMoiLand Thu 02-May-13 12:50:58

Yes, Tony Kroesig's sister but in LICC I am sure, don't think Lady Montdore is in PoL.

I wish we studied PoL and LICC at school instead of bastarding Lord of the Flies. grin

saffronwblue Thu 02-May-13 12:58:00

Another mitford groupie here. I think Nancy would have been absolutely take no prisoners terrifying but her books make me laugh out loud. I love Davey Warbeck and Uncle Matthew and Cedric and all. Fabrice is quite something. I think Pursuit is the best but Love in a cold climate is brilliant. Boy is revoltingly believable.
Debo's autobiography is very sweet. She doesn't have the sizzle of Nancy's writing but has such a great story to tell.
Wow chubfuddler, getting your DS blessed by greatness!

bassingtonffrench Thu 02-May-13 13:26:36

pursuit of love is the best. Uncle Matthew is the best character ever.

Chubfuddler Thu 02-May-13 14:08:55

Agree bassington. The entrenching tool, slips of paper, cries of SEWER, blubbing at Romeo and Juliet. Legend.

Haberdashery Thu 02-May-13 18:47:29

And all the lovely silliness between the sisters in PoL. Little houseless match etc.

GetOrfMoiLand Thu 02-May-13 19:04:14

Yes and the stamping out of a rhyme to make the sisters 'blither'.

I went to Swinbrook last year as well. What a beautiful church, and all the very simple gravestones of the Mitfords. And the local pub (lovely and gorgeous food) has blown up pictures of the Mitfords on the walls (the duchess of Devonshire owns the pub).

GetOrfMoiLand Thu 02-May-13 19:04:46

Piers Morgan got married in the Swinbrook church as well.

<boring fact of the day>

tumbletumble Thu 02-May-13 20:20:34

Pursuit of Love is my favourite too smile

Kasterborous Thu 02-May-13 22:03:30

Which Swinbrook is it, as I life not far from somewhere called Swinbrook.

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Thu 02-May-13 22:42:56

It is near Burford in Oxfordshire. A really beautiful area.

Kasterborous Thu 02-May-13 22:50:59

That's the one I live near then we are only four miles from Burford which is lovely.

GetOrfMoiLand Fri 03-May-13 10:22:38

It's well worth a visit, the pub is really lovely, and a lovely walk through the village to the church.

MrsBartlet Sat 04-May-13 09:11:00

Just read Pursuit of love and Love in a Cold Climate and loved them both. Having read about the Mitfords previously, I can't believe it has taken me until my forties to actually read anything by them. Really want to read Hons and Rebels next.

Mirage Wed 08-May-13 21:48:06

I've read a fair few Mitford books and always enjoyed them.I was once reading Debo Devonshire's memoirs and commented to DH that she seemed a very amusing,down to earth person,the sort you could have a good conversation with,and I'd like to meet her.

He announced that she was indeed a very charming person and he liked her very much.Turned out that he'd met her at something or other[ we are also country people like chubfuddler] but despite knowing how interesting I found her family,had not thought to mention it before.I was like this shock envy.

He does have form for meeting interesting folk and forgetting to tell me until months/years later,but you'd think the sight of me with her book might have jogged his memory.hmm

joanofarchitrave Wed 08-May-13 21:59:09

Slips of paper is love in a cold climate.

They really are vile as a family but so many great books. I really enjoy The American Way of Death as well.

MaitreKarlsson Wed 08-May-13 23:28:43

Love this thread. There are so many funny quotes in The Pursuit of Love but she was genius for poignancy/pathos.
I always think of the bit just before you mentioned Getorf. When she's waiting for him to come and visit her in her London flat during the war and hears the taxi pull up...sun silence happiness...(blubs). Magical and written with such feeling. Sorry dont have exact quote to hand

joanofarchitrave Wed 08-May-13 23:32:49

Agree Maitre.

I watched about 15 minutes of the most recent adaptation and lunged for the off button as it was truly awful. The worst bit was the addition of lots of reaction shots of people laughing uproariously at the jokes. Nancy Mitford almost never writes reaction to her jokes into the dialogue, she just writes funny lines. Either you laugh or you don't, what's the point of adding someone in a funny hat going 'ha ha ha'.

MaitreKarlsson Wed 08-May-13 23:56:11

Don't think I saw that one...I liked the one a few years back which mingled the two main books which had Rosamund Pike as Fanny and Megan Dodds as Polly...actually that was pre-reading the books, was my introduction to them.
Very evocative of pre-war and a different world. Always think it is interesting that Fanny and her Don lead such a calm quiet life in comparison to the Radletts/Montdores and wonder if that's what Mitford envied in some way, rather different from her marital experience/affairs.
The biography of The Bolter is also worth reading. By Frances Osborne. Some of the detail is similar.

joanofarchitrave Thu 09-May-13 00:11:53

I'd agree about Fanny's life. Nancy Mitford's characters remind me of Elizabeth Jane Howard's, in that she seems to peel off slices of herself to make into full people... the love-obsessed part of her that ran away from her husband and lived and loved in France, and the sensible part of her that attempted to live as a housewife in Oxford, all quite real on the page IMO. I think it was a fantastic tease to turn Decca's life into marriage with 'a little man like a nut' and to turn Diana into Cedric.

MaitreKarlsson Thu 09-May-13 07:09:45

Ah...didn't realise the Diana-Cedric connection! Makes sense! Thanks...

OscarandLulu Mon 13-May-13 19:10:03

I am one week away from baby no. 3 and have just bought Wigs on the Green as is just about the only thing I can read right now ... I LOVE this thread, and have to confess that if baby no. 3 is in fact a girl, which it wont be, it will be named after Nancy ....also swooning at Debo story earlier, I would have loved to have met any of them, they are all fascinating including Diana and Unity in their madness, and think Debo should do private audience with gals on this thread to answer all those intimate qu's... do you think Mumsnet can oblige ???? X

joanofarchitrave Mon 13-May-13 21:13:06

oh i don't know if diana is really cedric... just my pet theory... smile

TheSmallClanger Fri 17-May-13 13:52:03

I've always thought Cedric was one of Nancy's early "fiances" who were actually gay - one of them was called Hamish Something, and I think she may have "dated" Lytton Strachey.

She had very inappropriate taste in men and normally went for ones who weren't really there for the taking, due to their sexuality or marital status. I don't understand how her husband Peter Rodd fits into this, but I suspect she was under a lot of pressure to pair up legitimately. She was nearly 30 when she married him.

There are bits of Diana in Linda and Polly Montdore, and in the two runaway Ladies in Wigs on the Green. Eugenia in that book is a hardly-disguised Unity.

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