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The Blessing is one of Nancy Mitford's most personal books, a wickedly funny story that asks whether love can survive the clash of cultures. When Grace Allingham, a naïve young Englishwoman, goes to live in France with her dashingly aristocratic husband Charles-Edouard, she finds herself overwhelmed by the bewilderingly foreign cuisine and the shockingly decadent manners and mores of the French. But it is the discovery of her husband's French notion of marriage--which includes a permanent mistress and a string of casual affairs--that sends Grace packing back to London with their "blessing," young Sigismond, in tow. While others urge the couple to reconcile, little Sigi--convinced that it will improve his chances of being spoiled--applies all his juvenile cunning to keeping his parents apart. Drawing on her own years in Paris and her long affair with a Frenchman, Mitford elevates cultural and romantic misunderstandings to the heights of comedy.
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 this delightful comedy, Fanny--the quietly observant narrator of Nancy Mitford's two most famous novels--finally takes center stage.Fanny Wincham--last seen as a young woman in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate--has lived contentedly for years as housewife to an absent-minded Oxford don, Alfred. But her life changes overnight when her beloved Alfred is appointed English Ambassador to Paris. Soon she finds herself mixing with royalty and Rothschilds while battling her hysterical predecessor, Lady Leone, who refuses to leave the premises. When Fanny's tender-hearted secretary begins filling the embassy with rescued animals and her teenage sons run away from Eton and show up with a rock star in tow, things get entirely out of hand. Gleefully sending up the antics of mid-century high society, Don't Tell Alfred is classic Mitford.From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Prussian king Frederick II is today best remembered for successfully defending his tiny country against the three great European powers of France, Austria, and Russia during the Seven Years' War. But in his youth, tormented by a spectacularly cruel and dyspeptic father, the future military genius was drawn to the flute and French poetry, and throughout his long life counted nothing more important than the company of good friends and great wits. This was especially evident in his longstanding, loving, and vexing relationship with Voltaire. An absolute ruler who was allergic to pomp, a non-hunter who wore no spurs, a reformer of great zeal who maintained complete freedom of the press and religion and cleaned up his country's courts, a fiscal conservative and patron of the arts, the builder of the rococo palace Sans Souci and improver of the farmers' lot, maddening to his rivals but beloved by nearly everyone he met, Frederick was--notwithstanding a penchant for merciless teasing--arguably the most humane of enlightened despots.In Frederick the Great, a richly entertaining biography of one of the eighteenth century's most fascinating figures, the trademark wit of the author of Love in a Cold Climate finds its ideal subject.
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.
One of Nancy Mitford's most beloved novels, Love in a Cold Climate is a sparkling romantic comedy that vividly evokes the lost glamour of aristocratic life in England between the wars. Polly Hampton has long been groomed for the perfect marriage by her mother, the fearsome and ambitious Lady Montdore. But Polly, with her stunning good looks and impeccable connections, is bored by the monotony of her glittering debut season in London. Having just come from India, where her father served as Viceroy, she claims to have hoped that society in a colder climate would be less obsessed with love affairs. The apparently aloof and indifferent Polly has a long-held secret, however, one that leads to the shattering of her mother's dreams and her own disinheritance. When an elderly duke begins pursuing the disgraced Polly and a callow potential heir curries favor with her parents, nothing goes as expected, but in the end all find happiness in their own unconventional ways.
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.
Nancy Mitford's most enduringly popular novel, The Pursuit of Love is a classic comedy about growing up and falling in love among the privileged and eccentric. Mitford modeled her characters on her own famously unconventional family. We are introduced to the Radletts through the eyes of their cousin Fanny, who stays with them at Alconleigh, their Gloucestershire estate. Uncle Matthew is the blustering patriarch, known to hunt his children when foxes are scarce; Aunt Sadie is the vague but doting mother; and the seven Radlett children, despite the delights of their unusual childhood, are recklessly eager to grow up. The first of three novels featuring these characters, The Pursuit of Love follows the travails of Linda, the most beautiful and wayward Radlett daughter.
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.tail and delicious bons mots, and written in a witty, conversational style The Sun King restores a distant glittering century to vibrant life.
The inimitable Nancy Mitford's account of Voltaire's fifteen-year relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet--the renowned mathematician who introduced Isaac Newton's revolutionary new physics to France--is a spirited romp in the company of two extraordinary individuals as well as an erudite and gossipy guide to French high society during the Enlightenment. Mitford's story is as delicious as it is complicated. The marquise was in love with another mathematician, Maupertuis, while she had an unexpected rival for Voltaire's affections in the future Frederick the Great of Prussia (and later in the philosophe's own niece). There was, at least, no jealous husband to contend with: the Marquis du Châtelet, Mitford assures us, behaved perfectly. The beau monde of Paris was, however, distraught at the idea of the lovers' brilliant conversation going to waste on the windswept hills of Champagne, site of the Château de Cirey, where experimental laboratories, a darkroom, and a library of more than twenty-one thousand volumes enabled them to pursue their amours philosophiques. From time to time the threat of impending arrest would send Voltaire scurrying across the border into Holland, but his irrepressible charm--and the interventions of powerful friends--always made it possible for him resume his studies with the cherished marquise.
Nancy Mitford's most controversial novel, unavailable for decades, is a hilarious satirical send-up of the political enthusiasms of her notorious sisters, Unity and Diana. Written in 1934, early in Hitler's rise,Wigs on the Greenlightheartedly skewers the devoted followers of British fascism. The sheltered and unworldy Eugenia Malmain is one of the richest girls in England and an ardent supporter of General Jack and his Union Jackshirts. World-weary Noel Foster and his scheming friend Jasper Aspect a...
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