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

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There always seems to be another volume of collected letters, or a gorgeous edition, or a biography coming out; the most recent was Laura Thompson’s 2016 group study The Six. Facebook sets this cookie to show relevant advertisements to users by tracking user behaviour across the web, on sites that have Facebook pixel or Facebook social plugin. Inevitably, Linda eventually rebels against her sheltered childhood, running away to London to be a model and then jumping into a duo of ill-fated marriages, which is Knight’s cue to skewer certain quarters of the British ruling class. There were a lot of sidetracked and half-completed conversations - I could picture them all talking while eating, cleaning the house, watching TV and doing a million other things at the same time.

Darling is a black forest gateau of a book: rich characters, sumptuous prose, delicious dialogue, and layered throughout with sharp wit and intelligence . 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. As crazy as things get, there are poignant moments scattered throughout which remind us that love is sometimes not what we imagined, but it can also come when we least expect it. You can almost feel Knight giggling as she invents a new lexicon for the Radletts: “If people were short – all the Radletts were long-limbed and rangy and viewed short people with fascination and envy (‘It must be so cosy to be short,’ Linda said) – we’d say they were ‘still growing’, even if they were adults: ‘What’s she like?They also have their own codes, words, abbreviations – which as a mother of 4, and with our own family ‘things’, I totally understand. Thirteen days before they are due to be married, Kit reveals an awful truth, cracking the facade Piglet has created. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values. 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. So fresh, fun and full of heart, charm and whimsy - and that devastating ending comes all the more sharply because the reader has been having such a good time with the Radletts (extra points for including a reference to Cromer!

Darling is also in that vein, that serves a heightened sense of reality in a decidedly upper-middle-class world, where worries are real but they are less where the money for the mortgage is going to come from and more will they be able to afford a junior suite at the Ritz in Paris, or will it have to be a mere double room. 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.We also use them to help detect unauthorized access or activity that violate our terms of service, as well as to analyze site traffic and performance for our own site improvement efforts. The latest, much-anticipated addition to the Mitford shelves is journalist India Knight’s Darling, a modern re-telling of The Pursuit of Love.

Knight's effervescence of language magnifies the eccentricities of the families to satirical levels. 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.She wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t apologise for it, and is funny and astute in her observations. I haven’t read the original upon which it’s based - The Pursuit of Love - but will hunt down a copy to compare. What could have been a disaster - a modern reimagining of Nancy Mitford's superlative comedy of manners The Pursuit of Love - is an absolute triumph. She knows she doesn't want to marry 'a man who looks like a pudding', as her good and dull sister Louisa has done, and marries the flashy, handsome son of a UKIP peer instead. This book was apparently a retelling of ‘The Pursuit of Love’, which I hadn’t read and didn’t even know about when picking this up.

Knight is a columnist for the Sunday Times Style, who has also written four other novels and some non-fiction books, along with a children’s book. 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. She was determined to escape the ordinariness of life, so she went to Paris, met some eccentric people, married some of them, and lived her life to the fullest. Louisa, for example, the doughty oldest daughter, still marries a Scottish peer, but in Knight’s version she becomes an Instagram influencer: “‘I take pictures of the house and the children and of me, looking all golden with the light streaming in, and then I get tons of followers who love me, and then people give me things.Although Linda believes she wants to be free from the family confines, really she only dreams of romance and marriage. There is something discombobulating about characters you know being almost but not quite themselves. What an extra treat to have read it right after having read the original Mitford‘s one, all the details India Knight wove in shone even brighter. OK – so I need to hold my hands up first and say I’ve never read ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford – so whilst this is a retelling – it was a brand new story / set of characters for me – but as a fan of India Knight’s writing I requested an ARC from NetGalley.

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