The sequel to Nancy Mitford’s gem, The Pursuit of Love, we pick up Fanny’s story detailing life between the wars in upper-class England. This time the focus is on Polly, a more distant cousin to Fanny than Linda was in the previous book. Polly is the only child (and egad! a female, thus not eligible as an heir) of fabulously wealthy parents who own the estate of Hampton nearby to Fanny’s uncle’s Alconleigh. Polly’s mother, Lady Montdore, is nearly frantic trying to find someone to interest Polly as a suitor, but Polly turns a blind eye to everyone until her sudden declaration of love for her uncle Boy when her aunt dies. We get a bigger glimpse inside Fanny’s life as the wife of an Oxford don, still peppered with gossip from her “stepfather” Davey, and delicious visits from her younger Alconleigh cousins. Fanny confesses to “aching,” which she defines as “aching with boredom, a malaise from which girls, before national service came to their rescue, were apt to suffer considerably.” Act two brings Cedric onto the stage, the distant cousin who will inherit the large fortune and estate when Lord Montdore kicks the bucket. Turns out Cedric is a pansy, but he loves gadding about with Lady M and making her try a myriad of facial treatments, etc. Polly ends up back in England, bursting with child, only to deliver a stillborn which her mother doesn’t bemoan, saying that she hears children are too expensive nowadays anyway. Cedric looks to be the victor in the battle, his eye on Boy as the prize as he dashes petals off a daisy, “He love me, he loves me not…”
Terrific tale of a privileged upper-class family in England between the wars. Narrated by cousin Fanny with a lens on the boisterous Radlett family living in Alconleigh, their Gloucestershire estate. Fanny is abandoned by her own parents (mother nicknamed The Bolter, for her propensity for leaving her husbands) and raised by spinster Aunt Emily, who marries Davey in her 40s luckily to no ill-effect on Fanny. Most of the tale centers on Linda, the beautiful and energetic daughter of Aunt Sadie and Uncle Matthew. Linda marries disastrously, twice, but finds true love as she sits sobbing on her suitcase in Paris, having missed her train and out of funds for another. Linda has a daughter by her first husband, whom she hates and neglects, resulting in hilarious descriptions of the new mother rejecting her child, saying that the baby was crying because it caught sight of itself in the mirror. Her doctors warn her not to have another, that it will kill her, and she ignores this message when with her last lover, the French duke, Fabrice. This ultimately kills her, as expected, while the family is hunkered down avoiding the air raids in London.