‘It’s a funny thing that people are always quite ready to admit it if they’ve no talent for drawing or music, whereas everyone imagines that they themselves are capable of true love, which is a talent like any other, only far more rare.’
So says retired courtesan and society hostess Amabelle Fortescue to incorrigible but inconstant romantic, Paul Fotheringay. Amabelle presides over the machinations of her upper class friends throughout Christmas Pudding with a combination of pithy observations, sage advice and impish intrigues.
It’s a good natured novel, populated with larger than life characters who fall in and out of love with each other and with their own grand ideas on every other page. As a humorous novel of upper class twits, I found it impossible not to compare it to PG Wodehouse. The subject matter and the comedy of characters are very similar, although Nancy Mitford never achieved the lasting acclaim that Wodehouse did. She was far less prolific than him and didn’t produce any characters as iconic as Jeeves and Wooster, though I’d put Christmas Pudding alongside anything I’ve read by Wodehouse.
Perhaps unfairly, Nancy Mitford is better known for being the eldest of the notorious Mitford sisters who are collectively known for their snobbery and fascism. She can’t have been as much of an unreconstructed snob as she is sometimes described as, given the way she satirises upper class idiocy and decadence in Christmas Pudding but it’s not a political novel. It’s a worthwhile piece of fun for a rainy day.