Love in a Cold Climate
London, Folio Society, 1995, 241p
I only discovered Nancy Mitford rather recently, and now I am obsessed. Her wit; her unique observations of the world around her; her strange ability to write a whole book in which nothing much happens - all these things I adore.
Love in a Cold Climate is one of her better known novels. It is about the wealthy classes in between the wars, as they attempt to find their places in a world that is no longer dominated by old money and status. Linda almost watches from the outside - she is not fully immersed in this world where diamonds represent social standing, but is welcomed into it by friends and distant family. She has grown up with her aunt and uncle, spending time with the Montdores, a local family with a lonely and beautiful daughter, Polly. Much of the book is taken up with descriptions of tea parties and balls, with the drama focusing around the eventual romance between Polly and a much older widower.
Linda's commentary, very much in the style of Mitford's other protagonists, is full of humour and subtle disdain, highlighting the ridiculousness of these eccentric families. Through the Montdore family, mothers fail and daughters rebel - children act as a temporary distraction when couples get a little bored of each other, and a constant disappointment with their inability to live up to expectations.
And love is constantly revered, with everyone being "in love" with everyone else far more often than is necessary. But this madness is warm and touching, reminding the contemporary reader of a time long lost, never to return.