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One From the Archive: ‘Christmas Pudding’ by Nancy Mitford ****

Time for something seasonal!

In Christmas Pudding, Christmas itself is only a passing event. It is used mainly as an excuse in which to draw all of the characters together. In this way, it can be read at any time of year, and does not merely have to be saved for over Christmas time. The book is set in a rented house in Gloucestershire, which has been commandeered over the Christmas period by ‘sixteen characters in search of an author’. We meet Walter and Sally Monteath who live rather beyond their means, novelist Paul Fotheringay and his fiancee Marcella Bracket – ‘a social climber of the worst kind’ – Bobby Bobbin and his sister Philadelphia… The list goes on.

9781907429590The novel is incredibly amusing from the outset. There are such gems as ‘Philadelphia Bobbin… hoped that death would prove less dull and boring than life’, and Lady Fortescue losing her husband ‘respectably, through his death’. When Sally Monteath is asked about the impending christening of her baby daughter, she says ‘well, if the poor little sweet is still with us then we thought next Tuesday week (suit you?)… I should like the baby a good deal better if she wasn’t the spit image of Walter’s Aunt Lucy’.

The characters are the definite strength of this novel, and what a strength they are. Mitford has a wonderful way of crafting those who people her stories, and the ones she has selected to feature in Christmas Pudding crash together in the most hilarious of ways.

The novel is, overall, entertaining, amusing and relatively light, and certainly one of Mitford’s best. The book itself is a delight. Capuchin Classics refer to it as the ‘jewel in the Mitford crown’, and I wholeheartedly agree with them. Whilst it is perhaps the least well known of Mitford’s novels, it is by far one of the best.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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One From the Archive: ‘Christmas Pudding’ by Nancy Mitford ****

Time for something seasonal!

In Christmas Pudding, Christmas itself is only a passing event. It is used mainly as an excuse in which to draw all of the characters together. In this way, it can be read at any time of year, and does not merely have to be saved for over Christmas time. The book is set in a rented house in Gloucestershire, which has been commandeered over the Christmas period by ‘sixteen characters in search of an author’. We meet Walter and Sally Monteath who live rather beyond their means, novelist Paul Fotheringay and his fiancee Marcella Bracket – ‘a social climber of the worst kind’ – Bobby Bobbin and his sister Philadelphia… The list goes on.

9781907429590The novel is incredibly amusing from the outset. There are such gems as ‘Philadelphia Bobbin… hoped that death would prove less dull and boring than life’, and Lady Fortescue losing her husband ‘respectably, through his death’. When Sally Monteath is asked about the impending christening of her baby daughter, she says ‘well, if the poor little sweet is still with us then we thought next Tuesday week (suit you?)… I should like the baby a good deal better if she wasn’t the spit image of Walter’s Aunt Lucy’.

The characters are the definite strength of this novel, and what a strength they are. Mitford has a wonderful way of crafting those who people her stories, and the ones she has selected to feature in Christmas Pudding crash together in the most hilarious of ways.

The novel is, overall, entertaining, amusing and relatively light, and certainly one of Mitford’s best. The book itself is a delight. Capuchin Classics refer to it as the ‘jewel in the Mitford crown’, and I wholeheartedly agree with them. Whilst it is perhaps the least well known of Mitford’s novels, it is by far one of the best.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Abandoned Books

Below are several more reviews of the books which I’ve begun but haven’t finished.

Love from Nancy by Nancy Mitford
I had originally intended to read <i>Love from Nancy</i> last December, when Nancy Mitford was my now defunct online book group’s monthly author.  I felt that it was a good volume to begin before I went on holiday, as it could be left whilst I was away and I wouldn’t have to try and remember the story, as it were.  I liked the way in which the book was split into sections, and that each was accompanied by a biographical introduction of sorts.  Despite this positive aspect, however, I was rather disappointed by the entire volume.  I thought that Mitford’s letters would be fascinating, but they all struck the same chord after a while.  Dare I say this?  A lot of the correspondence here was dull and frequently similar, and I believe that all but die-hard enthusiasts of the Mitfords and their lives would find the collection the same.  With regard to other letter collections which I’ve read recently, it lacks the enchantment of Beatrix Potter’s, the vivacity of Sylvia Plath’s, and the wit of Ted Hughes’.

Glimpses of the Moon and The Fruit of the Tree by Edith Wharton
I liked Wharton’s writing and descriptions in both of these books, but I struggle awfully with her characters.  They are so unlikeable, particularly within the situations in which they are thrown together.

The Odd Flamingo by Nina Bawden
I really enjoy Bawden’s writing on the whole, but of late, I have found a couple of her novels rather hit and miss.  This book was certainly a miss for me.  I found the introductory paragraphs relatively interesting, but the characters were stolid and the protagonist very sexist and patronising (although this is perhaps more to do with the time in which The Odd Flamingo was written, rather than what Bawden wished him to be like).  The storyline, on the whole, was rather dull, and Bawden does not present the male first person narrative perspective well in my opinion.

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
I’ve read in several reviews that Amelia Peabody, the protagonist of this series of Elizabeth Peter’s, is incredibly difficult to like.  She is.  She is stubborn and sexist, and bases her entire life upon a series of ridiculous assumptions – for example, that a girl she comes across who has fainted on the street will be her travelling companion just like that, with no say so on her own part.  The telling of the story reminds one of wading through rather dull treacle, and even though the book is told from the first person perspective, it lacks both personality and empathy.  I am fascinated by Ancient Egypt, but I found this novel made the subject rather boring – something which I didn’t previously believe was possible.  I gave up on the book before I’d even reached the mystery.