Nancy Mitford was a bored, posh lady who took up writing because she was just so bored and posh. Brought up on the rambling estate of her Baron father, she never had formal education in anything except French (parce que les jeunes filles d’une classe supérieure doivent parler français) and hunting.
It didn’t seem to do her much harm, because she was a startling writer. If you’ve read Caitlin Moran’s books about her childhood in a Wolverhampton council house, it’s delightful to experience that exact same tone in The Pursuit of Love – just 70 years earlier and describing a jumble of earnest and evil posh kids instead of earnest and evil poor ones.
When I compare her writing style with that of her contemporaries (excepting Graham Green, a total babe and actually born within a month of Mitford), she’s a window letting in piercing fresh air. Such twinkling humour, such arch wit, and such unashamed glorification of naughtiness.
On the subject of a pet mouse dying:
I could see that she was really minding much more about Brenda than I did. The truth was that my honeymoon days with the mouse were long since over; we had settled down to an uninspiring relationship, a form of married blight, and when she developed a disgusting sore patch on her back, it had been all I could do to behave decently and treat her with common humanity. Apart from the shock it always is to find somebody stiff and cold in their cage in the morning, it had been a great relief to me when Brenda’s sufferings finally came to an end.
I just love the mix of childish anthropomorphism and jaded adult acceptance. I’m absolutely ADORING it, one of the best books I’ve ever read.