Saturday, 12 June 2010

Nancy Mitford - it was about time for some constructive criticism

A long time has passed since I had the unfortunate displeasure of running into a book that I simply cannot finish. The last one, which gave me such trouble, was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Frankly, I just don't get why Bulgarians picked it up as one of their 12 most favorite books. I may be shallow, but this magical made-up world of his was too much to bear. So after 200 pages (which seemed like ages) One Hundred Years of Solitude joined the sad (thank God really small) part of my library, dedicated to novels I simply hated.

I waited for my exams to be over to dive blissfully into Ayn Rand's third novel We the Living. A friend of mine, however, gave me Nancy Mitford's short novels and I decided to check them out before Rand. Wrong, completely wrong. 

Nancy Mitford was born in the UK in 1904 in the family of a wealthy baron. She didn't receive any proper education, not counting being taught to ride and speak French. Having read her novel I am hardly surprised. She indeed doesn't know what she is talking about. 

In The Pursuit of Love Mitford attempts to portray the life in the English high class between the two World Wars. Trust me, it took me 100 pages to understand the time period as she didn't mention it at all. Mitford doesn't consider the two most disastrous events of the 20th century THAT important to the story as her characters just floated in no time and space trying to figure out what to do with their life. The author depicts a wealthy family, where the children are not educated, as education is considered superfluous (going back to her background we understand why). Big surprise: they only ride and from time to time speak French. Indeed, Mitford overwhelms us with riding, hunting, and French as obviously those are the only things she really knows anything about. The main character is a spoiled rich uneducated girl in the pursuit of love. During this disastrous pursuit she changes husband after husband, becomes the mistress of a wealthy French man and at the end dies. Just like that. I read 150 pages without anything important, interesting, or provoking really going on. Mitford's obsession with wealthy high class lords and barons simply results in naive, simple, and uneducated characters, from whom a passionate reader cannot learn anything. And frankly, I don't see the point of JUST reading to pass by time, especially novels that are just words, black on white, with no meaning, no theme, and no moral whatsoever. 

Obviously, I didn't learn my lesson and decided to give her second novel, Love in a Cold Climate (considered her bestseller) a chance to interest me. However, as I encountered many of the same characters in the first 15 pages, I gave it up. Really, I have better things to do than torture myself with Mitford's attempts to write. 

Her biography says she took up writing "to relieve the boredom of the intervals between the recreations established by the social conventions of her world". Well, she may have relieved her boredom, but she certainly increased mine. 

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