Other books byNancy Mitford
Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie
Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie are two sparkling comedies from early in the career of Nancy Mitford, beloved author of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, here published in one volume with a new introduction by Jane Smiley. In Christmas Pudding, an array of colorful characters converge on the hunt-obsessed Lady Bobbin’s country house, including her rebellious daughter Philadelphia, the girl’s pompous suitor, a couple of children obsessed with newspaper death notices, and an aspiring writer whose serious first novel has been acclaimed as the funniest book of the year, to his utter dismay. In Pigeon Pie, set at the outbreak of World War II, Lady Sophia Garfield dreams of becoming a beautiful spy but manages not to notice a nest of German agents right under her nose, until the murder of her maid and kidnapping of her beloved bulldog force them on her attention, with heroic results. Delivered with a touch lighter than that of Mitford’s later masterpieces but no less entertaining, these comedies combine glamour, wit, and fiendishly absurd plots into irresistible literary confections.
In Highland Fling—Nancy Mitford’s first novel, published in 1931—a set of completely incompatible and hilariously eccentric characters collide in a Scottish castle, where bright young things play pranks on their stodgy elders until the frothy plot climaxes in ghost sightings and a dramatic fire. Inspired in part by Mitford’s youthful infatuation with a Scottish aristocrat, her story follows young Jane Dacre to a shooting party at Dulloch Castle, where she tramps around a damp and chilly moor on a hunting expedition with formidable Lady Prague, xenophobic General Murgatroyd, one-eyed Admiral Wenceslaus, and an assortment of other ancient and gouty peers of the realm, while falling in love with Albert, a surrealist painter with a mischievous sense of humor. Lighthearted and sparkling with witty banter, Highland Fling was Mitford’s first foray into the delightful fictional world for which the author of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate later became so celebrated. With an Introduction by Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey.
The Sun King
The Sun King is a dazzling double portrait of Louis XIV and Versailles, the opulent court from which he ruled. With characteristic élan, Nancy Mitford reconstructs the daily life of king and courtiers during France’s golden age, offering vivid sketches of the architects, artists, and gardeners responsible for the creation of the most magnificent palace Europe had yet seen. Mitford lays bare the complex and deadly intrigues in the stateroom and the no less high-stakes power struggles in the bedroom. At the center of it all is Louis XIV himself, the demanding, mercurial, but remarkably resilient sovereign who guided France through nearly three quarters of the Grand Siècle. Brimming with sumptuous detail and delicious bons mots, and written in a witty, conversational style, The Sun King restores a distant glittering century to vibrant life.
Madame de Pompadour
When Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV, no one expected her to retain his affections for long. A member of the bourgeoisie rather than an aristocrat, she was physically too cold for the carnal Bourbon king, and had so many enemies that she could not travel publicly without risking a pelting of mud and stones. History has loved her little better. Nancy Mitford’s delightfully candid biography re-creates the spirit of eighteenth-century Versailles with its love of pleasure and treachery. We learn that the Queen was a “bore,” the Dauphin a “prig,” and see France increasingly overcome with class conflict. With a fiction writer’s felicity, Mitford restores the royal mistress and celebrates her as a survivor, unsurpassed in “the art of living,” who reigned as the most powerful woman in France for nearly twenty years.