Nancy Mitford’s 1949 follow-up to The Pursuit of Love is more of a companion piece to the earlier novel than a sequel. She fills in a few gaps in the narrative here are there — like narrator Fanny’s own marriage — but she mostly tells a different story entirely. And like in The Pursuit of Love, Fanny is focusing on the life of a relative, but her subject this time, Polly, is quite different from Linda, the subject of The Pursuit of Love.
Polly is the only child of the Earl of Montdore. She’s extremely beautiful, and one would assume she’d be a popular marital candidate during her first season in London, but her quiet nature keeps potential suitors from taking a interest. Lady Montdore is extremely vexed about the situation, and she treats Polly badly as a result. But then Polly lands on a man who, in her mother’s eyes, is the worst possible suitor.
This book feels more serious than The Pursuit of Love in part because the situation within the family feels so much more dreadful. The Radletts are able to cheerfully adapt to their father’s eccentricities, but Polly lacks that ability — and Lady Montdore is not merely eccentric. She’s almost entirely wrapped up in herself, something that becomes evident later in the book when she begins to take advantage of Fanny’s own kindness.
Toward the end, the book gets lighter as a new family member, Cedric Hampton, appears. The obviously gay Cedric turns Lady Montdore into his own personal project, making her over and doting on her in a way that she finds delightful. Just about everyone, including Fanny, enjoys Cedric’s company, although Fanny’s husband is a little suspicious of his motives. Cedric is fascinated by Polly, and I wish there had been more time to flesh out their relationship. The novel ends abruptly, just as things are getting interesting in that area. And Polly’s story is not the main subject of the next book Don’t Tell Alfred, so I suppose what happens between them, and what happens between Polly and her mother, will have to be left to my imagination.