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Darling: A razor-sharp, gloriously funny retelling of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love

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Okay readers, don’t judge me, we’ve all done it, but I requested this book solely on the basis of loving that simply gorgeous front cover. Linda’s daughter Moira (deathlessly described by Mitford as a ‘howling orange in a fine black wig’) is gaily abandoned in the original; here she remains a beloved, if semi-detached, family member. This is a book full of lovely things: clothes and curtains and old Apple Mac computers in “boiled-sweet pink”. OK – so I need to hold my hands up first and say I’ve never read ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford – so whilst this is a retelling – it was a brand new story / set of characters for me – but as a fan of India Knight’s writing I requested an ARC from NetGalley.

We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values. Linda remains “soft-shelled as well as soft-hearted, with an overabundance of trusting optimism and friendliness”.

Or rather, she treats tiny little things as if they were international catastrophes and international catastrophes as if they were tiny little things. Knight also takes a gleeful magnifying glass to the hypocrisies of modern life, from rigorous dieter Blanche going to restaurants solely for social media content, to Christian making Linda do all the housework, because paying a cleaner is “immoral”. The book is narrated by Frances, a cousin of the Radlett siblings, who has been sent to live with her Aunt Sadie and Uncle Matthew by her flaky mother. If you aren’t familiar with the original, you might find the protagonist - and her tendency to fall in love with various ‘Bottoms’ (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream - a bit puzzling. She was determined to escape the ordinariness of life, so she went to Paris, met some eccentric people, married some of them, and lived her life to the fullest.

Mitford never wrote a really good marriage (Fanny’s husband, in Pursuit and sequels, is the very definition of a nonentity), and it’s tempting to wonder whether she ever could.

Matthew is a retired rockstar, Sadie is his earth mother wife – and they home school their children – and Franny. Public service announcement for fellow Nancy Mitford fans: India Knight’s modern retelling, Darling, is HEAVEN.

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