This combined edition of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are Nancy Mitford at the top of her form. Mitford was the eldest daughter of Lord and Lady Redesdale, British aristocrats whose ancestry stretched to the Middle Ages and beyond and whose relatives included Winston Churchill. Mitford began writing in the early 1930s, but her early works are, while amusing, trivial and dated. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate were produced in the late 1940s, after Mitford had made a loveless marriage and begun a long, frustrating love affair with a Frenchman. These adversities sharpened her insights and her pen, so that the two novels are as pleasing today as when they were first published.
The Pursuit of Love introduces us to the Radlett family, the children of Lord and Lady Alconleigh (thinly disguised and exaggerated versions of Lord and Lady Redesdale). The heroine is Linda, a romantic and lovely girl who dreams of perfect love. She marries a dull young man, leaves him for a handsome zealot who has no time for her, and finally finds love (and tragedy) with an urbane Frenchman. This is obviously a semi-autobiographical sketch of Nancy Mitford's own early years. The other Radletts are composites and exagerrations of Nancy's own sisters and friends.
Love in a Cold Climate focuses on the viccisitudes of Polly Hampton, a neighbor of the Alconleighs who has similar troubles in love. It features a couple of obviously gay characters (which must have been pretty controversial in the 1940s)and continue's Mitford's theme of the search for love.
Both novels are narrated by the Radlett's cousin Fanny Logan, whose own placid life and happy marriage make nice contrasts to all the troubles she sees going on around her. The writing is sparkling and bright but not shallow, and while both novels have somewhat sad endings (Pursuit more so than Cold Climate), you will enjoy and want to reread them many times.