As they grow up the story focuses on Linda, who marries after her first season "out", and has a child with a man who turns out to be a bore. She goes in the footsteps, to some extent, of Fanny´s mother, and the rest of the novel is all about what becomes of her. Mitford pushes her writing style and I jumped a bit at these lines about what it was like to attend one´s first ball:
"This then is a ball. This is life, what we have been waiting for all these years, here we are and here it is, a ball, actually going on now, actually in progress around us. How extraordinary it feels, such unreality, like a dream. But, alas, so utterly different from what one had imagined and expected; it must be admitted, not a good dream. The men so small and ugly, the women so frowsty, their clothes so messy and their faces so red, the oil-stoves so smelly, and not really very warm, but, above all, the men, either so old or so ugly. And when they ask one to dance (pushed to it, one cannot but suspect, by kind Davey, who is trying to see that we have a good time at our first party), it is not at all like floating away into a delicious cloud, pressed by a manly arm to a manly bosom, but stumble, stumble, kick, kick. They balance, like King Stork, on one leg, while, with the other, they come down, like King Log, on one´s toe. As for witty conversation, it is wonderful if any conversation, even of the most banal and jerky description, lasts through a whole dance and the sitting out. It is mostly: 'Oh, sorry - oh, my fault,' though Linda did get as far as taking one of her partners to see the diseased stones."Not unlike going to one´s first disco dance, as I recall...
|The garden feature at which Churchill proposed to his Clementine.|
I think Linda in this story has some likeness to Diana Mitford, the beautiful sister who ran away from her Guinness husband to marry the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, but most of all, I think she is modeled on Nancy herself, who dedicated the novel to her French lover Gaston Palewski.
With this fifth novel Mitford really matures into a good storyteller, and the BBC made an adaptation for television in 2001 with Rosamund Pike as Fanny. There was another adaptation in 1980 with Judi Dench as Aunt Sadie. Both adaptations are titled "Love in a Cold Climate", which is the name of Mitford´s next novel, another tale of Fanny´s which takes place during the same time frame. I am reading that one now, so that will be the topic of the next post.