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“A scrunch of gravel; the motor car gently stopped, and exactly as it did the front door opened, casting a panel of light at my feet. Once inside the butler took charge of me…”

Like the butler, Nancy Mitford’s light tale of the English upper classes holds the door open on a long distant time and place.   Did people really live like this?  If you want an insight into a world of aristocracy, where the working class are invisible, where meals are always served, where ONE lives in stately mansions filled with artworks (and dogs) and gets driven places by faceless chauffeurs, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Set (I believe) in the pre-World War period, the prose is pragmatic and could be compared to a stout, well-made pair of country walking shoes – in short, it gets the job done.

The story is narrated by Fanny, who is a remarkably colourless character, I say this because having just re-read the book I couldn’t remember her name and had to go combing through the pages to find it.   However, the other key characters Polly-the-beauty, her lecherous uncle Boy Dougdale and the incandescent Cecil Hampton are truly memorable.

Coming from the real world as I do, there were times when I did want to remonstrate with the characters “really?”  I wanted to say, “don’t you know how lucky you are? Is that really what you consider to be a PROBLEM?”   I look upon this as a good sign, a reader likes to engage, and the writing is good enough to make me engage.

Yes, it’s worthwhile spending a few hours with this upper class lot.  Be warned however, that it leaves one with a hankering for a stately home, fiscal ease, a liveried chauffeur, an organizing butler and frequent high teas.

RATING  Tweed, gilets, wellingtons, striped cravats, straw boaters, gentlemen’s relish, regattas and rain.

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