Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford – Review type thing

Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford - Review 2

BlogOwner (“BO“) is making her way through Nancy Mitford’s 8 novels, first of which is Highland Fling, which BO has just finished reading.

Published in 1931, Highland Fling is her (Nancy Mitford’s) debut novel, and unfortunately it does somewhat feel that way – a first “attempt” of sorts. Normally she (BO) abandons a book if it doesn’t engage her within the first 100 pages (her 100 Page Rule) (because, sorry, but decisions on sunk cost are not being made here). However, this book turned out to be educational in some ways, so she carried along.

Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford - Review 1Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford - Review 3

BO had been reading up about the Mitford sisters for a while, and wanted to dig into some of Nancy Mitford’s beloved works like The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. However, it was quite hard to find well priced paperbacks in the Indian market. Nancy is not one of those ubiquitous English authors here, so well, one had to look. Finally, she stumbled into an omnibus publication!!! All 8 Nancy Mitford novels, published in one paperback volume, for under Rs. 1000? Yes, please.

As expected, of course, the volume is quite unwieldy, and does not make for a good travel companion (which is a shame, because these books are perfect for entertaining, holiday reading). Also, the type is pretty small, with very tight line spacing. One can safely assume 1 page of the omnibus would translate into 1.8 – 2 pages of a modern paperback. However, all of this was expected from a volume which comes with eight, EIGHT novels in one value-for-money volume.

Having laid her paws on this little (only metaphorically) volume, BO decided to read them in order of publication.

First up, was Highland Fling. Most of the humour felt a little forced, and too cutting – you will understand when you read it. The story doesn’t quite go anywhere (which is usually not a problem for BO when the narrative is strong). You keep waiting for something to happen, but nothing much really does.

The characters are strong and well developed, and it gives a little glimpse into the world of the aristocratic society of pre-Second-World-War Britain. There are interesting observations to be made, and BO found it rather educational (as she is not a British lady from that era, or any era). Fans of Downton Abbey will appreciate it, although of course, that was set in the Edwardian era, it is interesting to note the difference in sentiments between generations.

There were some “darker” themes explored with regard to war, particularly the views of the two generations in the book towards it. BO has been reading some other books set in that time frame (Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery – which had to do with the First World War), so it was particularly engaging for her. It’s also quite fascinating in context of the events of the past couple of months here in India – where much discussion about war has taken place.

Coming back to Highland Fling, BO wouldn’t really recommend it to others, EXCEPT if they exhibit a particular interest in that period in Britain, or they are a completist.

Here’s hoping Christmas Pudding (the next in line) is better 🙂

p.s.: The cover of this omnibus is lovely.

Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe – Review type thing

Love Nina by Nina Stibbe Book Review Despatches from Family Life

Happy to report that Blogowner (“BO“) finished this little gem a couple of weeks back – Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe – and can’t wait to get into more of Nina’s writing. It’s a collection of letters that Nina wrote to her sister back in the 1980s when she was nannying for Mary Kay Wilmers of London Review of Books fame.

It’s interesting to note how she came about to publish these letters. Turns out she read out one of these at a party to honour Mary Kay, and MK being the literary type, there were many publisher types present. One of them reached out to Nina about the possibility of publishing the letters, to which MK said no the first time around. After a couple of years, she (Nina) was asked again, and this time MK agreed. So. Thank you MK!!

BO loves reading things about the mundane things in people’s lives, nuances in relationships, things that one often only reports to confidantes they speak to on a daily basis – particularly (read: only) when they are narrated with a sense of humour. Nina’s letters to her sister are very much of this nature. Nothing much really happens, except all the little things that pepper their daily lives with much humour every now and then.

The main topics that Nina talks about are – the family that she lives with, relationships with her neighbours and things they do together, some cooking adventures, her reading, lots of observations on people who visit the family, and so on. Basically daily life type things. Note that many of her neighbours are famous British literary & film types (such as Alan Bennett). Nothing earth shattering. Nothing shocking. Just pure entertainment.

BO is quite inspired by Nina’s healthy social life with her neighbours, seeing that BO has been making attempts to get to know her own neighbours (in a totally non-creepy way).

While midway through this book, BO went ahead and ordered Nina’s first work of fiction (Man at The Helm), although it’s supposed to be quite autobiographical. She also discovered several other authors while spiralling in this British-funny-writing rabbit hole. Turns out, she really loves the British, except the colonisation bit.

Love, Nina is supposed to be all non-fiction, with very little tweaking, but these letters have so many hilarious bits that BO was quite envious of Nina leading such a life full of funny episodes.

In one of her letters she says:

“There’s always a lot of autobiography in fiction and fiction in autobiography. It has to be that way otherwise they’d be unreadable (except by the author).” (page 238)

BO quite agrees with this assessment. Also something that should be taken note of while reading this Blog (autobiographical).

This book is a little treasure trove of funny anecdotes, and stories – with lots of interesting (very real) characters. She (BO) didn’t want these letters to stop.

Does Nina Stibbe write a blog?

p.s..: Please leave behind recommendations for books written by authors with a sense of humour. Much obliged.

p.p.s.: Apparently there is a BBC Miniseries based on Love, Nina. (note to self: Get hold of it.)