Nancy Mitford & Love in a Cold Climate

Come with me to Mitford-land and the amusing, entertaining and madly eccentric world of Love in a Cold Climate. There you will find many weird and wonderful ways of loving, you will experience country house parties, learn about snobbery, and revel in gossipy and often bitchy conversations about a memorable, but rarely likeable, collection of people.

I am a huge Mitford fan – their lives, their novels, their letters, all fascinate me. Nancy’s wry, acerbic novels, Jessica’s memoir of their childhood, Debo’s books about Chatsworth and Diana’s autobiography – they are all so wonderfully eccentric and funny. A friend once told me that you could tell everything you needed to know about someone by asking them which Mitford sister was their favourite. I will confess here that mine is Nancy because she was the finest writer of the six sisters – make of that piece of information what you choose.

“The great advantage of living in a large family is that early lesson of life’s essential unfairness.” – Nancy Mitford

The Hon. Nancy Freeman Mitford was born in Belgravia, London, nine months after the marriage of her parents, David Freeman-Mitford (later Lord Redesdale) and Sydney Bowles. Her parents had wanted a boy, but adored Nancy and Sydney believed that a child should not be corrected or spoken to angrily. As a result, Nancy was an uncontrollable child and very self-centred. Her mother did change her views on discipline as Nancy grew older. She found it rather a shock when 6 siblings arrived to claim the attention of parents and Nanny.

I find that whenever I give talks about the Mitford Girls, I am not alone in my fascination. The Mitfords continue to draw audiences and readers and to give delight through their extraordinary lives and their hilarious books. I hope you will be one of those who shares my delight in the Mitfords.

Are you a Downton Abbey fan? If so, you should love this book with its fabulous mixture of snobs, ill-starred romances, eccentric dowagers and aristocratic house parties. It is a sparkling romantic comedy and it evokes a lost world – a world of debutantes, hunts, country house parties and the ‘season’. The book shows how upper-class society worked in the 1930s, before World War II changed things forever. It is a masterpiece of social comedy, a spiky and intelligent novel – a book that repays re-readings.

There are so many fabulous books about the Mitfords to read – Mary S. Lovell’s excellent The Mitford Girls, Laura Thompson’s Take Six Girls and the various published volumes of letters written by and to Nancy and Debo, such as In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor. Learn more about Nancy’s life and loves, the film versions made of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, and enjoy questions for discussion and food for thought about debutantes, dances and dalliances.

Learn more about Nancy Mitford’s life and writing, the themes, styles and characters in the book, and perhaps enjoy sharing discussion questions with your book group – or even here with me. My Reader’s Guide has all this and more about this entertaining novel. I always love to hear what you think.

Nancy Mitford was a satirical writer, like her friend Evelyn Waugh. Have you read any of Waugh’s novels? If so, do you think she has the same cutting edge? Is she as effective in her use of satire? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Comments (4)

  1. Pip

    I loved the portrayal of Jessica the best – Jassy in Nancy’s novels, and Decca’s own books about herself. But reading what other people write about her I’m not sure I would really have liked her all that much.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I think it might have been rather daunting to meet Jessica. Evidently she is JK Rowling’s favourite Mitford and JK named her daughter after Jessica Mitford.

  2. Alexandra (Lexie)Young

    Hi Susannah,
    I loved those books, “Love in a cold Climate”. and “the Pursuit of Love” joyous. I must read again as you encourage, re read these wonderful novels.
    I noticed you had a Pamela Hansford Johnson in your list.
    I read most of her books years ago when I lived in London. I would go to the local library where they had a collection of her books. I just loved them and I also loved her husbands books C.P Snow.
    I was a nurse and when I worked at the Brompton hospital in London she was a patient there.
    I was only young and wanted to ask her about one of her books and how it ended but I was a bit shy of “Lady Snow”.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Wow, you met Pamela Hansford Johnson! How amazing. That also makes you only one remove from Dylan Thomas. I have read no CP Snow, so you have reminded me that I must remedy that lack.Do re-read Nancy Mitford’s books – they are well worth it.

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