Opening between the Wars, The Pursuit of Love recounts the Radlett children's unique upbringing, which eschews education (particularly for girls) over a good seat and love of the hunt. It offers a fascinating insight into a long-gone era, and introduces some fascinating characters, eccentric, unmistakable and singular. Events then unfurl into the Spanish and Second World wars, ending in 1945. A reminder that nothing really changes, The Pursuit of Love has references to abortion (the Bolter may have bolted often but Fanny's an only child), hunt sabotage, hypochondriasis and dietary fads.
I loved this book and its sequel, Love in a Cold Climate, when I was an adolescent, and fondly remember the mini-series of the same number. This enjoyment was shared by my mother, long a Mitford fan, and still serves as a bond between us. So closely are these elements intertwined with the books themselves that I cannot tell how much of my enjoyment and comprehension comes from these experiences and how much is due to the texts alone.
Fanny is a superb narrator, observing the eccentricities of a very British family from her own conventional (but superficially unconventional) position, alternately admiring and outraged. In the second half of the novel Fanny's focus shifts from the Radlett's as a whole toward the love-oriented Linda, who lurches from one doomed marriage to another. From her own happy marriage to an Oxford don, Fanny thrills and despairs for Linda by turn, each adventure making her more grateful for the stability of her own life. When Fanny sadly tells the Bolter that Linda's last, and also doomed, relationship was with the great love of her life, the novel closes:
"Oh dulling," said my mother sadly. "One always thinks that. Every, every time."
A melancholy-tinged joy. - Alex