Friday 7 March 2014

A Talent To Annoy - Nancy Mitford
I am aware that many people find female literature of the 1930s dated and grating. We have the worthy ideals of a generation who grew up in the shadow of the First World War coupled with an almost Downton Abbey meets Jeeves and Wooster chumminess, and this drives many people up the wall.
Personally I am struggling to think of any author I've read from the period who hasn't managed to charm me. Everyone from the Vera Britton/Winifred Holtbys from the start of the period, through Stella Gibbons, D.E Stevenson, E.M Delafield right through to the wonderful Nancy Mitford, they all charm me with their combination of wit, faded glory and poignancy.
Vera Briton obviously made her personal life very public through the publications of her 'Testament's, but of the others mentioned it is Nancy Mitford who's private life seems most fascinating. Her family are not only used to help create characters for her works, notably The Pursuit of Love; but also create so many fascinating stories of their own that I cannot help but be drawn in.
So I am partial to any book discussing and delving into the Mitfords, this particular book had to be mine. This is a great collection of articles and reviews written by Mitford over a period of more than 40 years. Her unique voice shines through each of the items some of which are quite short and snappy while others have enough length to them to allow you to really get your teeth into something. I think my favourite articles are those relating to the oddity that is the English Aristocracy as well as the one which explains the 'U or non U' philosophy. Alongside these, which seem to come direct from one of Mitford's wonderful novels, there are others which seem to be almost preparations of her French history studies as well as others describing some of her travels often to somewhat unexpected places. Her sense of fun and unusual family circumstances crop up throughout the articles, and I recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed her other work. The whole book makes for a brilliant and fascinating period piece giving insight into some of the concerns and interests of a certain class of woman during the mid 20th century.

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