Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book review: Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford

This book contains two funny British novellas from one of the Mitford sisters, who I should have read long ago. The first story, Christmas Pudding, is about Paul, a writer who wants to be taken seriously (his first novel was a wildly hilarious success except... he didn't mean for it to be funny) and who wants to write a biography of a female poet. In order to gain access to her journals, he agrees to sign up to be the holiday tutor to a Eton boy (under the agreement he will spend all his time with the journals and not make the boy do any of the studying or exercise his mother wishes). Meanwhile, he falls for Philadelphia, the older sister, and they all spend a lot of time at a nearby cottage, rented out by Paul's friend, a wealthy widow with her eye on a neighborhood farmer. It is amusing and all ends well despite some minor hurdles and a plethora of characters.

Pigeon Pie is even funnier. It's 1940, 8 years after the first story, and war with Germany has begun. Sophia wants to be a spy, like her frenemy Olga is bragging about (and which Sophia suspects is a lie) and instead ends up answering phones and counting laundry at a local first aid station. However, there are spies all around her and she unwittingly get wrapped up in their escapades and hijinks.

Both of these stories are just screaming for Julian Fellows to make them into movies. I worry that I missed several of the jokes, particularly ones that rely on old-fashioned British terminology, and he always makes everything clear even to American audiences. It was particularly fascinating to read about England and Germany just a short time into the war, when the outcome is far from apparent, and without the benefit of hindsight.

Amusing stories, they were perfect for this time of year. If you're an Anglophile and appreciate British humor, these are excellent examples of the fare.

My mother loaned me this book.

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