I can’t help but start this post with Oh My God! But there is a lot of “hot searing burn holes through your skin” heat in the sun at the moment. So much heat that it is near impossible to function. I truly mean this.
We have had months of hot nights where the temperature rarely dips below 27C and the days are just awful. “How awful could it be?” I hear you ask.
Well, 45C for three days running is pretty fucking awful.
My car temperature hitting 48.5C (a friend’s reached 52C only half an hour from my home!) is pretty fucking awful.
When animals en masse are dropping dead out of trees, it is pretty fucking catastrophic awful. Poor bats.
To every climate change denier out there (yes, I am looking at the traitorous Australian PM Mr Malcolm Macbeth Turnbull), you really need some Science 101 because the climate shit has hit the fan and there is splatter all over the fucking place.
The heat certainly is not good for our sanity, it is total rubbish for loving relationships (I reject ALL overtures of affection and no one NO ONE is allowed to touch me, hug me, kiss me, cuddle me, come near me!). And this freaking heat is damned to hell for it sure is not conducive to reading DAMMIT!
So, having said that, It’s TBR time again and this time it is a New-to-You author. Well…I have not really gone with a new-to-me author and I read the novel many years ago too so it isn’t even a new-to-me book. However, Emilia Fox the narrator is completely and totally new to me and though a bit of a stretch, I am considering this enough of a match to the TBR topic.
The Pursuit of Love
Narrated by Emilia Fox
“Oh, the boredom of waiting to grow up! Longing for love, obsessed with weddings and sex, Linda and her sisters and cousin Fanny fantasise about the perfect lover. But finding Mr Right proves difficult, and Linda must bear marriage with both Tony the stuffy Tory MP and gorgeously handsome but humourless communist Christian before finding real passion in war-torn Paris with Fabrice.”
Many years ago, my then workplace director recommended to me Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. I borrowed a copy from the library, read it, I liked it but it didn’t move me deeply and I neither hated nor loved it. It did though leave me with a keen interest in this family of six sisters – as I am one of four sisters and real life examples of multiple sister relationships holds infinite fascination for me – so much so that I seek out stories and essays about their lives. And wow! Do those Mitford Sisters deliver! They are ever so Downtown Abbey-esque! For the uninitiated here is an article on the Mitfords in Vanity Fair.
Last week, I thought I would save my pennies and borrow an eAudiobook through my library. Very little appealed but then, buried deep in the catalogue I found a recording of Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and thought I would give it a go seeing that I remembered liking the book.
Now excuse me as I go all Chapman’s Homer-ish and say “Oh My!” Emilia Fox’s narration is just an absolute delight. Where most narrators frustrate me and annoy me to the point I stop listening and I pick up a print copy, Fox’s interpretation far far surpassed my own reading and internal narration. From liking the story, I now love it. Love and romance, family dynamics and the domestic, and the lives and perspectives of women are my favourite reading choices. The above blurb is a rather dismal though correct description of the book but it really does it a disservice as it lakes the warmth and nuance and love of this story. Though Mitford wrote this book as contemporary fiction it now sits comfortably without ageing as a historical reflection of the mid-war and early World War II lives of upper-middle class English women. I loved the wry humour, the countryside description – which to be truthful just felt like grown up Enid Blyton stories or slightly fancy retro Mills & Boon novels. The story is told from cousin Fanny’s perspective. Fanny is growing up with her cousins as her mother “The Bolter” is this ephemeral being who is not interested in bringing Fanny up. Fanny observes as she, her cousins and her aunts fall in love, marry, have children and in Linda’s case, have affairs. Linda though doesn’t feel that she is like Fanny’s mum despite both of them bolting from their families and from their daughters. Linda somehow feels that her actions, and her love and romance makes her better than Fanny’s mother. Mitford speaks to the judgements we pass on the actions of others where our own lives/loves may sit in parallel. There is also the story of the love of family and home and how when the world is at a time of peace we can frolic around the world yet when war is declared, somehow, even when it is not part of an individual’s plan, families end up taking care of even those who are the most errant of all. Because that is what love requires. This is full of deep affection and deep reflection into attitudes and beliefs of the 1920s through to the 1940s, many of which are not all that different to those that we hold in our early 21st century lives.
There is sooooo much to be said about The Pursuit of Love that I may just leave it for another day and another much longer post. What I do want to say is that I am incredibly happy that I decided to re-experience a novel that had not inspired me upon my first sitting. I think of Keats’ finally discovering a translation of Homer that showed him why Homer’s stories were wonderful. Emilia Fox’s storytelling was sublime. Her narration, her characterisation and her deep and obvious affection and understanding of Mitford’s story just shone and engaged me. Suffice to say, I loved just about every listening minute of this audiobook and I highly recommend it for anyone that knows that they have 8 listening hours spare.