Darling: A razor-sharp, gloriously funny retelling of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love

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Darling: A razor-sharp, gloriously funny retelling of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love

Darling: A razor-sharp, gloriously funny retelling of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love

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The characters are all completely recognisable even when they’ve actually been changed - Jassy, for example, is perfect as a modern version of the original. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, no underlining or highlighting of text, and no writing in the margins. It was irreverent and refreshing, witty and erudite, very much in a similar vein to Bridget Jones’ Diary and other women’s fiction hits that came out around that time. This is perhaps because Knight, free from the innate pressures of the roman à clef, has enough distance for clarity. Linda’s dud husbands are the fleshily handsome son of a Ukip peer (looking ‘like he lives off parma ham and cream, like an old woman’s bloody cat’, Uncle Matthew fulminates) and an Etonian anti-capitalist.

However, we are reaching out to the Catholic community and readership, that has been so loyal to the Catholic Herald. Finance is provided by PayPal Credit (a trading name of PayPal UK Ltd, Whittaker House, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond-Upon-Thames, Surrey, United Kingdom, TW9 1EH).Eventually Linda does find her way out from the bosom of her deeply eccentric extended family, and moves to London to become a model.

Perhaps this is why she remains a heroine for all ages: there is an innocence about her, even as she abandons a child and, here, dabbles in drugs. The plot remains very much the same; Knight has taken few liberties, but has recast the beloved characters and story in a modern mould. The book then follows all of the family – but primarily Linda on her pursuit of love, taking in London and Paris as well as Norfolk. You need to know and love Nancy Mitford's "The Pursuit of Love" to really appreciate this very clever updating of the novel for the 2020s.Her story is told by Fran, the cousin who had been sent to grow up with the Radletts when it became clear that her care-free mother couldn’t give her the stable childhood she needed. All the old faces are there, ripe to take on the modern world; Franny’s mother The Bolter fits surprisingly well into the 21 st century, as does Lord Merlin, who is now an avant-garde fashion designer, and who was before his time in the original in any case. Big love too for Nina Stibbe - the Lizzie Vogle trilogy are inspired works of comic fiction, full of well drawn observations of people's little quirks and foibles. Tony is still a very dull banker, Christian is a poet and Fabrice owns a few boutique hotels in Paris.

This is a Mitford retelling, so the British class obsession features prominently, mainly in the form of working-class Uncle Matthew’s complicated loathing of “poshos”. Like the modernised versions of Jane Austen’s canon before it, Darling has to stretch itself a bit to fit anything resembling contemporary reality, and in failing to do so in any meaningful way ends up becoming somewhat dream-like and fantastical in places. Some tweaks reflect contemporary sensibilities: sea swimming replaces hunting, and most of the characters have jobs: Linda runs a Dalston café, and her one true love, Fabrice, owns chic boutique hotels. This is the difficult question when considering a retelling of a book that feels as fresh and alive as Mitford’s 1945 classic.

I have done ever since I picked up a copy of Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison when I was 13 and would spend hours laughing over every sentence. Uncle Matthew is now a retired rock-star who wants to protect his children from the tabloids; Lord Merlin, the effete neighbour in Mitford’s original, becomes fashion wunderkind Merlin Berners (a nod to Lord Berners, who inspired the character); Davey, obsessed with his health, fits seamlessly into the modern world: “‘I have a lot of time for the late Dr Mayr’s method. Husband number one, Tony Kroesig, has been perfectly refashioned as the son of a prominent right-winger. In fact, nobody in my book group really rated it - mostly, the reaction was: "Why bother writing it at all?

Okay readers, don’t judge me, we’ve all done it, but I requested this book solely on the basis of loving that simply gorgeous front cover.Briefly, then, for that reader: teenage Linda Radlett lives in “the very definition of emptiness” (north Norfolk).

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