Monday, 12 November 2012

Review: Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford

In Nancy Mitford's first novel, all of the elements are there but she hasn't quite found her style yet.

Published: 1932
Pages: 185 (Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1975)
Read: 8/11/12 - 9/11/12
Status: Borrowed from the library

Synopsis: Albert Gates goes to stay at Craigdalloch Castle in Scotland for a shooting party.  There he meets a host of mad characters, plays some pranks, and falls in love.

First line: "Albert Gates came down from Oxford feeling that his life was behind him."

Review: This is the second time this year when I've read the first book by an author I like and wondered if I'd be a fan of them if I'd started with their debut (the other was Christopher Isherwood's All The Conspirators).  I'm a huge fan of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate to the extent that I've lost count of how many times I've read them, especially the former, but Highland Fling is definitely an early effort.  It's not bad, but it doesn't sparkle like those books do.

Still, if you expect upper-class eccentricity and moments when you're not sure if you should be judging the actions of the aristocracy positively or negatively, then this has those elements in spades.  And those are things I like about Nancy Mitford's work, it's just that here they've yet to reach the pitch of absurdity she manages in her later books.  There are definite hints at what she'll achieve - General Murgatroyd is a forerunner of Uncle Matthew - but she hasn't got there yet.  If anything, this felt a bit like reading an Evelyn Waugh novel, and you can see his influence clearly.  Not a bad thing (though I've only read Brideshead Revisited) but not what I'm looking for in a Nancy Mitford.

So, I would definitely recommend this to people wanting read more Nancy Mitford, but I would say read The Pursuit of Love or Love in a Cold Climate first so you can see what all the fuss is about.  I would also say that the book ends so abruptly that I had to do a quick double check that the library book hadn't been defaced.  A fun read, and interesting for people who are already fans of Mitford's work, but not something I'd recommend as a starting point.

Rating: 6/10

Other Reviews:
Desperate Reader
I Prefer Reading

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