A companion novel to The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford is a tale of a group of aristocratic families, told by narrator Fanny Wincham. Both novels are stories about other people, rather than about Fanny herself. Love in a Cold Climate is about Lady Leopoldina ‘Polly’ Hampton and, like all Mitford’s novels, there is a satire in her portrayal of the whims and foibles of the English upper class. It is like reading of a lost world though the satire in this novel is less biting than her earlier novels.
Mitford does create unforgettable characters. Not Fanny who, like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, is something of a transparent uncomplicated observer, but Lady Montdore and Cedric are both memorable, especially when seen together. The novel finally takes off with the appearance of Cedric but there is quite a lot of background to set up before this point is reached. In a modern novel, the background would be slipped in carefully so allowing the story’s conflict to be quickly addressed.
Eighteen-year old Fanny lives with relatives due to the absence of her separated parents. Among her neighbours are the Montdores of Hampton near Oxford, recently returned from India where Lord Montdore was viceroy. Polly, also eighteen, reflects on the differing nature of love in a hot, and a cold climate. In the early pages Polly’s mother Lady Montdore despairs of her daughter ever falling in love with a young man and giving birth to the next heir of the Montdore fortune. Unfortunately for them, their only child Polly falls in love with an unsuitable older man. A family rift ensues, Polly is disinherited and flees abroad with her new husband. Into this vacuum arrives the new heir, a distant relative from the Canadian branch of the family. Cedric is something of a surprise and Fanny, expecting the Montdores to hate him on sight, watches with amazement as the foppish outrageous Cedric wins a place in their hearts. When Polly returns from Sicily, she finds a changed world.
This is not a plot-driven novel which at times was frustrating, leaving me with the feeling that the narrative was drifting along. This is remedied with the arrival of conflict, ie Cedric, who comes alive off the page. I did long to hear the internal monologues of Cedric and Lady Montdore; not of Polly though, who remains a rather flat uninspiring character. I started reading the novel thinking it was Polly’s story, but finishing it thinking it was about her mother and Cedric. Not as laugh-out-loud as Mitford’s earlier novels.
BUY THE BOOK
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE by Nancy Mitford #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3U2 via @SandraDanby