Review: Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford

Well, it’s 24th December, so it could only be a festive themed book I review today, right? Saying that, it was obviously the title I was going on here as, it turns out, Christmas Pudding doesn’t feature an excessive amount of Christmas content.

Opening sentence: Four o’clock on the first of November, a dark and foggy day.

This is my first book by Nancy Mitford. Best known for her novel The Pursuit of Love and being one of the infamous Mitford sisters (theirs is a fascinating family story, find out more here).

Sixteen characters in search of an author.

(Disclaimer: the above title is a sentence from the book, rather than me being scathing…)

Set in the 1930s, we are introduced to sixteen characters from the English upper-class whose lives entwine over the Christmas period. Paul Fotheringay is our lead, an author who wrote what he thought was a work of serious fiction – but is in fact hailed as a comedic masterpiece, much to his displeasure. He sets out to change his reputation to that of a serious writer by undertaking a memoir of society lady and poet, Lady Maria Bobbin.

Christmas Day was organised by Lady Bobbin with the thoroughness and attention to detail of a general leading his army into battle.

This quest sees him, along with help from his friends, gain a coveted place at Maria Bobbin’s relative (and holder of Maria’s diaries – essential research), Lady Bobbin’s estate. Lady Bobbin is very, let’s say, old-school (she would totally have voted for Brexit) – her opinion is the only correct one. So there’s a mix of grating and charming characters. The plot ticks along at a quick pace and I did find myself hooked in.

Overall, Christmas Pudding is a great glimpse into the upper-class social circles of the 1930s, but not as Christmas-infused as I was hoping. Hailed as a comedic story – yes, it had its moments but is very much a snap-shot of its time. The aforementioned sixteen characters gather for Christmas dinner at Lady Bobbin’s, but that is essentially more of a sub-plot. I guess I was looking for a little more mince pies and jolliness.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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