Set between the wars, this novel follows the lives and loves of an impossibly rich and aristocratic family – the Montdores, seen through the eyes of Fanny, a childhood friend of their daughter Polly. Being from a less well-to-do family, but in demand by the Montdores as a sensible friend, Fanny is ideally placed to comment on how the other half live. Fanny’s family itself is no stranger to matrimonial shenanigans – her mother is known as ‘The Bolter’, currently on about husband number three somewhere.
Meanwhile the Montdores are beginning to despair about Polly who should have been married by now, you can’t remain a debutante for several years. Then, after the death of her aunt, Polly shocks everyone by saying she is going to marry her Uncle – instant disinheritance ensues. This means the Montdore fortune will go to cousin Cedric, a Canadian – who turns up in Paris, and proceeds to charm his ageing Aunt and indeed everyone with his gay ways.
This novel is a charming comedy of manners that is mostly frothy, but is often mordantly witty, particularly about Lady Montdore’s total snobbishness, and the vanity that Cedric awakes in her! Given that it was published in 1949 elements in it were probably seen as quite racy. Today, it would probably be considered as top class chicklit, but with added bite.
While I enjoyed reading it, I was slightly disappointed by this first encounter with Mitford the novelist, for the Mitford family’s real life is far more exciting and interesting than those in the book!