A wonderful escapist read following the Radlett Family, in particular the gregarious protagonist Linda as she falls in love, each time more dramatically than the last. A timely read before it reaches our TV screens next month. Definitely a welcome choice for book clubs in lock down.

Readability

★★★★★★★★★✰

Talkability

★★★★★★★★✰✰

Den scores

★★★★★★★★✰✰

THE PURSUIT OF LOVE

BY NANCY MITFORD

205 pages

We all need to immerse ourselves in moments of frivolous comfort and ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford, which is about to hit our screens in a new joint BBC/Amazon drama next month, is the ideal escapism. It follows the ups and downs of the Radlett family during the world wars, in particular the gregarious protagonist Linda as she falls in love, each time more dramatically than the last. It is always interesting for your book club to compare and contrast a novel to a TV production and this new adaptation written by and starring Emily Mortimer should be no exception. Definitely a welcome choice for book clubs.

The Radletts live at Alconleigh, an old country estate in the Cotswold. They are a traditional landed gentry family living off the land who love animals, hunting and all outdoor pursuits. Lord Alconleigh is the rather formidable but ultimately harmless father, pompous and difficult and more importantly believing women have their place and education should not be wasted on them. At his side is his long-suffering wife Sadie and their seven children.

The story is told through Fanny, a cousin whose own wayward parents have left her upbringing to her Aunt Emily (Sadie’s sister) but who spends her holidays with this eccentric but loving family. As Fanny says, ‘The Radletts were always either on a peak of happiness or drowning in black water of despair; their emotions were on no ordinary plane, they loved or they loathed, they laughed or they cried, they lived in a world of superlatives.’ Fanny is the same age as one of her cousins Linda and together they share a loyal friendship. And so, we follow their pursuit of love, from teenage fantasies through to marriage, children and the arrival of war.

Linda and Fanny are preoccupied with sin, love, sex and ultimately finding a husband. Linda is strikingly beautiful, carefree and headstrong and not willing to abide by the rules of love laid down for her. She inadvisably marries twice before falling head over heels in love with the charismatic French Duke, Fabrice. There is no denying Linda is flawed but you can’t help being sucked into her enthusiasm for life and loving.

Mitford writes with a sharp wit and matter of fact honesty. Her dismissal of motherhood and misfortune is blunt and her perceptive portrayal on the frivolous lives of the aristocracy is both sharp and entertaining.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Nancy Mitford, the Den highly recommend ‘The Pursuit of Love’ as the perfect starting point and can’t wait for the upcoming TV series with its stellar cast including Lily James, Emily Beecham, Dominic West and Andrew Scott – a real treat for those lockdown evenings.

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