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"Christmas Pudding" by Nancy Mitford

Christmas Pudding - Nancy Mitford

I have recently bought all of Nancy Mitford's novels, and intend to read all eight. Christmas Pudding (1932) follows on from Nancy Mitford's first novel Highland Fling (1931). Some of the same characters appear in both books. I enjoyed the continuation, however Christmas Pudding works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.

In Christmas Pudding, which, despite the title, contains only a limited amount of Christmassy content, the usual array of colourful aristocratic characters converge in various settings. The younger Bright Young Things displaying their usual mix of homespun philosophy, bored affectation, and commenting on each other's love lives, and other gossip, whilst the older generation do much the same whilst also despairing about the younger generation, declining standards and the dangers of Bolsheviks. 

When it's good it's wonderful. At the outset there's a character called Paul Fotheringay who is dismayed by the acclaim for his book. What he thinks is a serious work has been acclaimed as a comic masterpiece. There are other very amusing moments in the book too, and all told it is a light, easy, short and amusing book. As in Highland Fling, the book is best at bringing her various privileged characters vividly to life. At times this feels like reportage.

What I think the book lacks is any commentary or contrast. This is a hermetically sealed world where everyone is immune to the consequences of their actions, and the faceless domestic staff are there to smooth the way ahead. At least with P.G. Wodehouse the servants are given a voice, and also frequently used to highlight the idiosyncrasies (and occasionally the stupidity) of those above stairs. The story is very much told from the centre of Nancy Mitford's world. I am reliably informed that this changes as Nancy Mitford develops as an author, and there is a discernible change between her first four novels, and her second four novels. I am looking forward to moving through her work and observing her development first hand.

Christmas Pudding is a better book that Highland Fling, and both are very enjoyable. I laughed more during Christmas Pudding. So, in summary, another enjoyable and humorous early novel from Nancy Mitford.