Thursday, May 31, 2012

Love in a Cold Climate

Nancy Mitford
Love in a Cold Climate

Although I don't generally like the term "companion novel," this is closer to that than to a sequel of The Pursuit of Love, since it's set from the mid 1920s to the early '30s, and it tells of Fanny's distant cousin Polly.  The love of the title is Polly's for her uncle by marriage, Boy Dougdale, whom the Radletts have nicknamed The Lecherous Lecturer, because he likes to molest teenaged girls.  It's not clear what he does to Polly at 13, at least hair-stroking, probably much more, since he pinches Jassy's bottom, and she must be about 7 at the time.  Mitford is not at all consistent with the Radletts' ages in this novel.  Not only does Jassy sound much older than she is, but so does little Victoria, who can't be more than 10 by the end of the novel.  Also, Mitford has the Crash of '29 happening a year or two too soon if Fanny and Linda are born in 1911.  (Polly is a year or two older.)

The uncle-niece romance is distasteful, but it's seen that way by most of the characters.  It does lead to one of my favorite exchanges, between sassy Jassy and always hilarious Uncle Davey:
"'I say,' said Jassy.  'Come on, Dave.'"
"'Oh, no, dear, thank you.  Marry one of you demons?  Not for any money.'"

Polly does marry her uncle soon after his wife dies, but her parents, Lord and Lady Montdore, disinherit her.  The estate is entailed, but she was going to get everything else.  Now all the property is going to go to a distant relation, so distant he's Canadian.  (Thank you, I'll be here all week.  Try the veal.)  People imagine a cross between Little Lord Fauntleroy and a lumberjack, but what they get in Cedric is closer to the former.  He's a stereotypical but completely happy homosexual, gay you might say.  (Tip your waitress.)  The story ends well for him and everyone, as both he and Lady Montdore get the Boy, although Fanny points out that the stodgy Borely family "think it simply terrible."

As with Pursuit, read the novel for everything other than the main romance.  Lady Montdore is a delightful old bitch and Uncle Matthew continues to be a delightful old bastard.  My favorite section was the chub-fuddling, although I also enjoyed Fanny's disillusionment with Oxford wives.

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