I recall going through a bit of a Mitford sisters stage when I was a teenager, although I think that involved reading things about them rather than reading things by them. That said, I know that I read Love in a Cold Climate when I was about fifteen, although I remember absolutely nothing about the book. It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise to realise that this novel is the first in a trilogy of which Love in a Cold Climate is the second book.
This is the story of the intensely romantic Linda Radlett's "pursuit of love" in the 1920s and 1930s. Linda's story is narrated by her cousin, Fanny, a sensible young woman who's serial monogamist mother is known in the family as "The Bolter". The prose is witty, in an entertaining between-the-wars upper class English style. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. But for all the humour, the story is in many ways extremely sad, dealing as it does with women who live outside accepted social mores. In addition, the fact that the novel contained an account of refugees from the Spanish Civil War in France took me by surprise.
It's quite clear that the novel has autobiographical elements. The eccentric Radletts are based on Mitford's even more eccentric family. And the great love of Linda's life - Fabrice Sauveterre - is based on Mitford's lover, Gaston Palewski. There are other characters based on real people: the delightful Lord Merlin, for example, is based on Lord Berners.
I was in absolutely the right mood to listen to the audiobook version of the book during the week. It's narrated by English actress Emilia Fox, who does a great job. Her accent for the French Fabrice was unconvincing - okay, terrible - but otherwise I enjoyed her interpretation of the characters.
This has renewed my interest in the Mitfords. Maybe it's time to re-read Love in a Cold Climate and then possibly a biography. It's not as if there's a dearth of material about Nancy Mitford and her sisters.