Monday, 11 January 2010

Last book of the year...

It's not usual that I should be in a position to start a new book on the first of January; however, I finished Hons and Rebels on the thirty first, and opened Marghanita Laski's Little Boy Lost (about which more later) at the dawn (literally) of the new decade. There is something pleasingly tidy about that.

I'm a huge Nancy Mitford fan - there, it's said - and of course am fascinated by the whole Mitford family. Although I have quite a collection of books by and about them, I had not yet read Hons and Rebels, Decca's account of the girls' upbringing, and decided it was high time I did. It was enjoyable - and of course, deeply moving - but by the author's very nature was throughout more serious in tone than other biographies, and for me, is not as delicious as either Mary S Lovell's The Mitford Girls or Laura Thompson's wonderful Life in a Cold Climate. The latter in particular, though ostensibly about Nancy, captures the whole brood vividly, and realises an aristocratic England of the twenties and thirties that is, for better or for worse, long gone. My personal predilection for the glamour of the first half of the twentieth century is constantly fed by the vast number of books about this family, and indeed, by the books Nancy herself wrote. My next journey Mitfordwards will be Wigs on the Green (which I have half-heartedly been trying to track down for some time), Nancy's parody of her sister Unity's fervant (and indeed, fatal) Nazism. I recently came across original penguin paperbacks of The Water Beetle and Noblesse Oblige, two of her works of non-fiction, which now sit proudly on my shelf under a pair of black and gold art deco shoes. And with that thought, I commit the readings of 2009 to the library of the past and reach for the first of this year's offerings.

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