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

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What an extra treat to have read it right after having read the original Mitford‘s one, all the details India Knight wove in shone even brighter. But Darling is a treat , with whip-smart dialogue , larger-than- life characters , witty observations and a heart-breaking twist .

The last few years have seen the 2021 BBC adaptation of Mitford’s 1945 novel The Pursuit of Love, starring Lily James, and the “Mitford Murders” series by Jessica Fellowes.Publication dates are subject to change (although this is an extremely uncommon occurrence overall). A perfect comfort read: the kind of book you take into the bath and keep reading even when the water has gone cold, a one-sitting, dark-at-four joy . The original novel centres on the life and loves of the beautiful Linda Radlett and her unconventional upbringing with her siblings and cousin Fanny (the book’s narrator) in the Cotswolds manor of Alconleigh. I expect that most people who read it will know that this is a contemporary retelling of Nancy Mitford’s wonderful The Pursuit of Love.

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. Fran is grounded yet not without her own whimsey, and they are the perfect pairing to get up to low-stakes mischief. Her updates are so so clever - Uncle Matthew is a cantankerous retired rock star living in rural Norfolk with bad wifi and little phone signal, and Auntie Sadie is posh Anglo-Indian boho, while Lord Merlin is now a sort of combination of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano (the doves dyed pastel colours totally fit!

Hers is a higgledy-piggledy life that is always buoyed by good cheer, and everyone swept up in her wake is left changed by the encounter, no matter how small or big it is. The fact that it is a modern adaptation has been done so well, it has avoided being a superficial reading of The Pursuit of Love so well. La storia di Linda, bella e autolesionista senza saperlo ne volerlo è da sola interessante e intrigante ma tutta la famiglia composta da un padre ex pop star e dalla madre nobile indiana, dai fratelli e cugina, dalle zie e i loro uomini sono una sorpresa continua, molto attuale e informativa. The neighborhood looks different too, but she’s still the same woman and it’s still the same place, and as the past erupts into view, they slowly collide.

Darling is the story of her growing up: the people she meets; the men she falls in love with; and her friendship, enduring and eternal, with Frances. This book was apparently a retelling of ‘The Pursuit of Love’, which I hadn’t read and didn’t even know about when picking this up. Public service announcement for fellow Nancy Mitford fans: India Knight’s modern retelling, Darling, is HEAVEN.

I thought the original might be coming out of copyright next year, when it’s 50 years since Nancy died, but apparently it’s 70 years after her death when it expires so it’s not for that reason.

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