This is a very funny, keenly observed story – a re-imagining of The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. I haven’t read the original so it is a bit hard for me to say what is Knight and what is Mitford other than the fact that this book made me laugh out loud frequently but is in the end a tragedy. There is a good overview of the original here.
Knight has stuck with the same names for the characters as Mitford’s novel but obviously updated them so that the story can be told for today but the story is all about Linda Radlett and her desire to fall in love.
I wish the love would hurry up and come. I am so ready for love.p52
Linda’s father is a retired pop star, her sister Louise marries a Laird from Scotland, lives in a cold castle and becomes an influencer on instagram and she is a model and then a very good chef.
The first man she falls in love with is Tony Kroesig, very rich and the son of a UKIP supporter, who is all about money. He is protrayed as one of these boys who abbreviates everyones names and barks like a dog at inopportune moments (in bed). His sister’s name is Blanche, an appropriate name given her father, with the whole family not really understanding Linda and her bohemian ways. After their split, their daughter stayed with Tony and Linda moved out.
She then met Christian – an Eton educated man pretending to be a poor, radical lefty although not so radical and enlightened that Linda didn’t become his indentured skivvy.
Really, he operated like an old-fashioned seducer; a 1950s Riviera gigilo with all the sex and criminality removed – ‘Yeah, all the fun bits,’ said Jassy. Instead of running away with your jewels in the night, all he wanted to steal, and perhaps try on in private, were your esteem and your admiration.p157
Instead of resisting him, Linda changed and started to dress in different ways, work all day and then come home and cook his group of friends dinner when they met up. She also provided the woman he ended up falling in love with (as much as he could) by providing an administrator/events organiser to sort out his group and their online works. Eventually, they drifted apart and Linda left.
And then, Linda went to Paris for a few days, got herself into difficulty and met Fabrice who she realised that she loved – not just the idea of loving him. He was rich, worldly, interested in her and interesting himself and doted on Linda. I won’t tell you the ending. If you know the original, you will know what happens but if not, it is quite a shock.
The parts I loved best in the book were the descriptions of Linda and her siblings growing up in rural Norfolk, home-schooled (or wild) and without mobile phones or computers. This means that they get much of their information from books and over-hearing conversations and this can lead to very funny moments. The family was very well-crafted: loving but eccentric with lots of in-family jokes. If people were short, they were called ‘still growing’, breasts were named ‘snowy orbits’ from a romance novel, Claude the dog was bilingual – Claude in French and Claud in English – and Uncle Matthew really does have a lovely turn of phrase when ranting. There is a two page list of all his hates.
In no particular order, Uncle Matthew also hated wallpaper, polyglots (‘It’s just showing off’), euphamisms in general and euphamisms for swearing in particular, hence our own salty vocabulary, people who abbreviated names and added an S on the end – Matts, Robs, Linds, this last guaranteeing full-blown apoplexy. He hated pot-pourri, handkerchiefs, tissues and, by extension, any kind of public nose-blowing, gratuitous thrift, as when people didn’t heat their house properly when they could afford to, or bought the cheapest product to save a few unnecessary pence (‘penny-pinching poshos, nothing worse).And so on, p17
In fact, as I reread this list, I realise that the men that Linda fell for all embodied some elements of these things he hated. The book is a slow destruction of the idea of romantic love but a strong supporter of loving families and friends who rescue you. It is a book that teaches you can make mistakes, even in love, it won’t stop love happening and you never know who you are going to meet in the future.
This book is great fun and I love the front cover of the hardback.