Wednesday, October 14, 2015

One Hit Wonder + Another

Well, well, well behind as usual and it's too bad because I bet I could have written a much better review two months ago... oh well.  So the story of this next story - after I finished Persuasion (or was it Sanditon? can't remember which was first), I needed something new to read... but I was not at home with my usual treasure trove of beloved favorites.  I was away for a three week vacation :) I contemplated going to the library in CL, but it didn't work out.  Then, the last week of my vacation I went with Dov's family to the Finger Lakes, where it was essential that I have something to read.  And I had the brilliant idea of making an activity out of it and going to a used book store! What could be better? Really I went to get kids books, I can't remember if that was more my primary motivation.  I went the first day but it was closed (Monday), so I went back again the next day (such persistence). I did ok with kids books, really nothing special (might as well just buy new on Amazon, as  I just did), and then I spent some time browsing for something for me. Naomi was with me, which made it... not easy, but I trawled the shelves nonetheless.  I was really ready to give up, I couldn't find any favorites and didn't have the ability to watch Naomi and search for new books  - and then I happened to come upon Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate! What luck! I've been meaning to read Nancy Mitford since who knows when, and even more since I read and *loved* Stella Gibbons.  So I picked up the two-in-one for $5 and I was set for the week (and more).

Now for the reviews -
First things first, my expectations. I knew going in the Nancy Mitford didn't write fairy-tale happy endings (so not Cold Comfort Farm).  The books were more in the vein of a roman-a-clef or illustration of the age (the age being the time between the wars).  But they are high society tales, and classics, so I expected a well-written source of gentle entertainment.

The Pursuit of Love fit this description to a T I'd say. Very well written, very likable narrator (unexpectedly nice), sparkling vivacity and wit, and a grand illustration of London society.  Also full of clear indication that the Pursuit of Love will not end in blissful capture.  It was not a happy ending, but it fit with the tone / theme of the book so at least I expected nothing else (though really, it did seem like it could have gone another way in the end).  And I kept turning page after page to read more about the mad adventures of the Radletts and Co.  So quite the enjoyable read overall.

We next turn to Love in a Cold Climate... which was.. wow... something else.  Same likable narrator but much, much less likable main characters for a start.  And it just goes down in from there. I am actually quite shocked about the content of this book - child molestation, marital infidelity, plenty of homosexuality. And none of it is particularly frowned upon.  This was really a very strange book - I'm not sure how it was received when it was written, but to me it just seemed like a book about bad-natured people behaving badly. In the end they mostly find love (spoiler alert I guess), so maybe that was the point? But the grotesqueness of the plot just seems not to fit with the neat ending.  Maybe I'm putting this more strongly than it actually is, but believe me, this was not the book I was expected after The Pursuit of Love.  The first one seemed eminently familiar and the second, utterly foreign.

Verdict: 3.5/5 for tPoL and 2/5 for LiaCC

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