Over the chimney-piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans, one by one as they crawled out of a dug-out. It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination for us children.
The rest of you will only use the word luncheon in that conjunctive vileness known as luncheon-meat but be aware that u and non-u usage applies generally in this novel and is associated with Mitford whether facetiously or not is hard to discover. A nice little marketing device in any case for the English upper class restricted code. So it’s pudding, writing paper and is it lavatory, let me check.
The device of having an external narrator allows the author to describe what is clearly a version of her own family that probably gave some offense. For instance the Radlett family of Uncle Matthew and Aunt Sadie are described as uneducated except for a smattering of French from a governess and the highly
prized good seat in the saddle when hunting about which Linda is passionate. In season a pair of children are given a head start and hunted by their father, a somewhat literal version of hare and hounds. The Radletts being children of a Lord are Hons. So is Fanny the narrator whose father is also ennobled but a bounder and who remains in the Bermudas with an old Countess of some foreign sort to avoid being cut as Ford explained to Hemingway once.
The other eccentric is the man who marries the aunt who first had charge of Fanny, Captain Davey who is of course also an Hon. The novel pullulates with them. His oddness is dietary theory. Early morning tea replaces the evaporation of the night which is true. Actually he may be proleptic rather than truly eccentric. His time at Matthew’s house is fraught by the nursery comfort cuisine that obtains at Alconleigh. However as the Irish saying has it ‘one earwig recognizes another’ and they get on well.
Linda’s misadventure’s in love provides the core of the story and I’m demmed if I’m going to tell you it. It moves along effortlessly the fictional correlate of a lemon meringue pie, the tartness perfectly balanced by the fluffy lightness and the base crunchiness of narrative density. It ought to have that at least as there seems to be many parallels with Nancy Mitford’s own life. How to make the truth seem true requires wit and that deftness that is her forte. Excellent.