Book Review: “Love in a Cold Climate” by Nancy Mitford
Disturbingly, or perhaps providentially, I had just posted my intention to write a novel based on embarrassment and minutiae and then read “Love in a Cold Climate” which was, well, pretty much that.
Except it lacked a plot – which is heartening, as I, too, lack a plot. And, despite “Love in a Cold Climate”‘s success and various adaptations, I think it could have done with a plot. So, I’ll get a plot, do the embarrassment and minutiae thing and it’ll be: next stop Hollywood. Maybe. Or perhaps not.
There were two things I found interesting about the book thematically – the breakdown of Victorian conventions about love towards our current conventions and the idea of influence.
At the start of the novel, it is all about joining the marriage market in a very formal way, with balls and dinners and suitors. This formal/conventional attitude is personified in Lady Montdore who is concerned to find an suitable husband for her beautiful daughter. Foiled by that same daughter, Lady Montdore herself abandons all convention and is seen, leaving in a car, to start a new life: with her ex-lover (who happens to be her daughter’s unsuitable husband) and his gay lover (with whom she is also happens to be infatuated). So, the traditional structures of courtship are explored and then abandoned with each character following individual paths. Our narrator follows a very conventional life, while those around her get up to all sorts that would have been surprising, I am sure, when the book was written, but less so now.
The second point of interest was the pattern in the book of characters influencing one another. One man holds another in such high regard that whatever he says is adhered to – no matter how ridiculous. Towards the end of the novel, Lady Montdore is similarly influenced by her nephew who manages to give her a make-over of all make-overs. It is like when you say to a child, “if so-and-so jumped off a cliff, would you do it?”. In this way the characters influence each other, while other characters forge their own way.
So, the book was odd, with lots of awful snobs in it. There were a lot of witty one-liners, although none of them were sufficiently memorable for me to include here.
I enjoyed the DVD better. (The BBC one. I haven’t seen the most recent film version)
Yes. Odd book. Odd how it has been so successful. Maybe it had its day last century.