I have been intending to read Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate for some time, way back last November I read The Pursuit of Love – the first of Mitford’s three ‘companion novels’ – Love in a Cold Climate is the second of the three. The three novels are by no means sequels and are not written chronologically. In fact, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate run almost concurrently. Although the narrator is the same, Love in a Cold Climate tells a different story to The Pursuit of Love. Fanny Logan remains our constant, our narrator. In The Pursuit of Love Fanny tells the story of her cousin, Linda, and her quest to find love; whereas in Love in a Cold Climate Fanny tells the story of her friend Polly and Polly’s mother, Lady Montdore.
Love, as ever, remains Mitford’s central theme…whether or not her characters find it is, indeed, another matter. In fact, Mitford’s novels are ostensibly about romantic love and the search for a spouse or lover, but it is her depiction of love in its other forms that is perhaps more insightful. Mitford has a real knack for capturing families, in particular the wealthy upper-class families that inhabit her stories. Even for someone far removed from such a society, the relationships Mitford draws are recognisable and parallels are easily drawn. Families, whatever their wealth or social status, are…families. There will always be disagreements, idiosyncracies, disappointments and love. It is these aspects of love that Mitford so lovingly portrays.
Love in a Cold Climate is a story about the difference between infatuation and love. Time, as ever, proves to be the test. The loves and longings we carry through adolescence are not the loves of the real world and Love in a Cold Climate shows this. It also shows that as we become older we learn to love in many different ways. Love, in Mitford’s novels, does not come in one simple form, but rather layers itself through the lives of her characters. Each of Mitford’s characters is touched by love, whether they are the object of it or not.
As with The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate holds many gems amongst its characters. The inimitable Uncle Matthew is still present, but I’ll spare you my ravings this time. Indeed, Love in a Cold Climate introduces us to other well-drawn, witty and comical characters. Cedric is a new addition, and an amusing one at that. His peculiar mix of pomposity and sincerity is initially confusing, but as you come to understand him better, and as he stands the test of loyalty and of time you come to appreciate Cedric. Reading Love in Cold Climate is certainly akin to immersing oneself in a pool of gentrified eccentricity… a mad hatter’s tea party of Dons and Dukes… but to read it is also to bathe in the comforting world of family and its lifelong loves.
I’ve enjoyed reading Love in a Cold Climate, although I would urge you to read The Pursuit of Love first. The landscape of Love in a Cold Climate is much richer for having read The Pursuit of Love and I think I would have found the novel far less enjoyable had I not done so. There is a final novel to complete the trio, The Blessing is Mitford’s end to the three ‘companion novels’ and I hold a secret (well, not-so-secret now) hope that it might tell the story of Fanny herself and that Mitford’s readers will be treated to the complete story of Fanny’s life and not just the tit-bits we scrabble to pick up through our reading of the first two novels. I intend to read it, although perhaps, not immediately. I’ll save it and indulge myself in the not too far distant future.
I’ve grown fond of Nancy Mitford and her characters. They allow a snapshot into another world, a world of aristocracy and wealth. It’s easy to imagine that Mitford’s readers could come to resent the characters they find on her pages, but no, there is something so endearing and loveable about the way Mitford depicts them that it’d be hard not to love them. In particular, Fanny, and her cousins the Radletts, whose wacky way of life and quirky wit quickly cause you to develop a fond attachment to them. You don’t forget them in a hurry and returning to read about them again after months apart was very much like stepping into a room of extended family who you have not seen for a while…faults and foibles abound, but it is these very things which you soon come to love.
“You’ve no idea how long life goes on and how many, many changes it brings. Young people seem to imagine that it’s over in a flash, that they do this thing, or that thing, and then die, but I can assure you they are quite wrong.”
Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate