The Pursuit of Love – by Nancy Mitford – independent book review – biography

This semi-autobiographical novel by Nancy Mitford (1904-1973), one of the famous British Mitford sisters, revolves around fictional Linda Radlett and her extended family of aristocrats in the years leading up to World War II. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

The novel’s narrator is a Radlett cousin, nearly the same age as Linda, the protagonist. Both are children when the book begins who, along with Linda’s other siblings, dream big (especially about love). The story follows them as they grow up, “come out” as debutants, and eventually marry. The title refers to Linda — who rushes into marriage early but doesn’t find love until much later.

For me, the highlight of the book is its humor. Mitford’s descriptions of the Radlett family showcase the predictably dry Brit humor and she writes about some real characters that are truly fun to get to know.

But the thing about most of these people is that they are glib, thoughtless, and self-centered. Hunting, horses, jewelry and shopping are all VERY important. Reading and education are not. And because of their superficiality, I found I didn’t care all that much about any of them.

The Mitford Sisters: Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity, and Pamela Mitford in 1935. Of the six sisters, the youngest, Deborah, is absent. (from Wikipedia)

At times the humor, coupled with the inane subject matter under discussion, made me think Mitford was making fun of her peers and family members. But other times, it seemed as though she was simply portraying everyday life among the upper class in England. Either way, I felt a great distance between me and the characters so that, even when a storyline turned tragic, I felt nothing.

This is a light-hearted glimpse into the pre-war world of England’s rich and famous. But their frequent parties and lengthy hunts, their marriage games, even their interesting idiosyncrasies make for largely self-satisfied and dull lives.

Author Nancy Mitford

More about the author. She has written quite a few books, including a number of well-respected biographies. List of Nancy Mitford Books.