cover image Life in a Cold Climate: Nancy Mitford

Life in a Cold Climate: Nancy Mitford

Laura Thompson. Pegasus, $29.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-64313-303-4

Literary biographer Thompson (The Last Landlady) evocatively depicts English writer Nancy Mitford (1904–1973) in this stylish account. The oldest of six famously glamorous sisters, Mitford was aristocratic, though not “so secure and rooted as one imagines.” Thompson covers Mitford’s upbringing, by genteel but often cash-strapped parents, first in London and then in a series of country manors, with mainly her sisters for company. She also recounts the novelist’s fraught relationship with her mother, her disastrous early marriage to a handsome but feckless English aristocrat, and her long-lasting romance with French diplomat Gaston Palewski, for whom she moved to France after WWII. Immersing readers in Mitford’s literary life as well as her personal life, Thompson describes the witty newspaper columns, historical biographies, and, most notably, autobiographical novels (such as The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate) that made her reputation, along with the bond of friendship and mutual respect she enjoyed with Evelyn Waugh. Thompson is affectionate toward but candid about her subject, arguing that Mitford’s wit and self-awareness overcame the snobbery of her background and enabled a “populist stance on her own elitism” that appealed to a wide audience. This sparkling and probing biography will please Mitford’s many fans. Agent: Georgina Capel, Capel & Assoc. (Jan.)