Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review - Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Polly Hampton was hoping that upon her family's return from India that she would reach the cold climate of England and that everyone would be more refined and not at it all the time. By it, she means love and the affairs of the heart. Sadly, her friend Fanny fills her in, that indeed, daydreams of love fill most hearts even far away from India. The thing is, Polly does not want love. She doesn't want her mother constantly hoping for her to fall into a mad passion, even arraigning for notorious French seducers to ply their trade on Polly. Polly will play the part but her heart will never enter into it. Lady Montdore continually has Fanny as her own "spy" hoping that Fanny can detect a glimmer of love within her daughters cold heart. Lady Montdore has spent her life planning for her daughter to have "all this." Yet, when the truth comes out as to the long game Polly has been playing, "all this" doesn't even enter into it. Love takes many forms, and it doesn't matter if it's odd or unconventional, love is what matters.

Love in a Cold Climate is always combined with The Pursuit of Love in adaptations for the simple reason that the events are actually concurrent with the previous volume. Also, for some reason, they think it's more romantic or apt to call it by Love in a Cold Climate. While I do see the reasoning, I always feel that by doing this neither story is getting full justice. While Pursuit is Linda's tale, Love is more obviously, not just Polly's story, but Fanny's, whose life gets fleshed out. It's not just about living in Linda's world anymore, but Fanny's own world and how others view it. In giving us more time with Fanny, who, let's face it, is the character the majority of us will identify with, there is a stronger connection for me with this book. Fanny's love of Linda, and, really, hero worshiping of her, gave the first book less heart for me. Perhaps it's because I'm the more sensible one and will identify with whichever character that may be. Like in Sense and Sensibility, I am Eleanor, not Marianne. I am Fanny, not Linda. While Polly might be the "main" character for much of the first half, her flinty heart, the opposite of Linda's overflowing heart, puts Fanny center stage and gives me a more satisfying read. Also, less time at Alconleigh and more time with Fanny's father figure Davey, means you realize what a hoot Davey is. His humor and his love of gossip fuel the fires of this book to make it more fun and full of laughs then you would expect after reading only the first volume.

There is also so much in this book that appeals to the lover of Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey in me. In Fanny staying with the higher echelons at Montdore House we have grand feasts on such a scale that you may be salivating while reading this book. There are balls where the rooms are flooded (on purpose) to make it like Venice, where you can float on gondolas indoors, an image that I think will never leave me, despite how short that passage is! With the character of Cedric, we have open acceptance of a gay character in a 1930s setting! Yes, there is some not quite PC labeling of him, but for the time, it was very forward. While Cedric didn't sit that well with critics in 1949, the fact remains that Nancy had a fully realized, sympathetic character with a non-mainstream lifestyle who was loved, truly loved by Lady Montdore, and therefore secured his acceptance in the aristocracy.

Yet for all that, Nancy can never make one non-mainstream lifestyle acceptable. This is a fatal flaw in this book, and that is Boy (Harvey) Dougdale. In fact Boy has so loomed in my memory that, aside from the "Venetian Ball" he is the overwhelming memory I have of this book. Boy is not just lecherousness, he is a pedophile. I am sorry, but there is no humor in someone who is not just sick but, as Uncle Matthew would say, a sewer. He has preyed on all the young girls, and boys, and for this he is nicknamed the Lecherous Lecturer. Yet is anything done about this pervert in their midst? NO! In fact most people find it funny in a kind of deviant way, "Oh, that's just Boy". He is in fact pitied, yes PITIED, because his unwanted attentions to young girls has resulted in him marrying one of the young girls he molested with his "sexy pinches" and massages. Pitied because his proclivities sparked an unwanted love that drove this girl to pursue him to the alter, not just the roof for a little cuddle. Guess what, don't fiddle with little children, because no matter what others think, I will not pity you, I will hope that the little girl will murder you on your wedding night.


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