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3.4 out of 5 stars
Wigs on the Green
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2010
Although I enjoyed this book, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I thought I would. But that's more due to expectations - I expected it to be a really biting, vicious, no-holds-barred satire on British Fascism in the 1930s.

Instead the satire is done in a more gentle, good-humoured way. Aside from the ending, which trailed off rather than ending with a bang, it's still quintessential Nancy Mitford. So thank goodness it's finally available after being out of print since the 1930s.

The introduction by Charlotte Mosley explains a lot: Mitford had to be careful not to libel her brother-in-law Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists (with his `Blackshirt' followers - `Jackshirts' in the novel). The year before its publication, Mosley had won 5000 pounds in damages in a libel suit, so this was no idle threat.

Mosley states that Mitford had to excise material dealing with her character Captain Jack, modelled on Mosley: "Nancy refused to abandon the book but she did agree to remove nearly everything directly relating to Captain Jack - some three chapters altogether". Wigs on the Green would no doubt have been a lot less lightweight if they had been in it, and would also have been longer than 170 pages. I was left wondering whether Mitford may have been disappointed that she wasn't able to do more with the ripe-for-satire material that was available to her, if only family, politics and concerns about libel hadn't forced her to exercise caution, or remove parts of the book altogether.

There's still plenty of her trademark humour. For example, the beliefs of Lady Chalford, modelled on her mother, are described as follows: "She went to church herself, of course, feeling it a patriotic duty so to do, but she had no personal feelings toward God, whom she regarded as being, conjointly with the King, head of the Church of England." This is similar to a comment that Mitford made in an essay called `Blor', in which she wrote, "My parents were ultra-conservative and Church of England, with the emphasis on England. They went to church regularly, in order to support the State."

Her portrait of the under-educated, over-enthusiastic, fascism-obsessed Eugenia Malmains is also brilliant. It's not hard to see why her sisters Unity and Diana were not happy about the book. Mitford wrote to Diana that Wigs on the Green was "far more in favour of Fascism than otherwise", but I doubt anyone, including herself, believed that for a moment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is Nancy Mitford's third novel, following on from her romantic and light hearted comedies, "Highland Fling" and "Christmas Pudding." In a sense, this is also a romantic comedy, but it has the strange backdrop of 1930's fascism. Of course, Mitford always wrote about the world she knew intimately and, in the 1930's, both Communism and Fascism were seen as attractive political options. One of Nancy's sisters was an ardent Communist and two famously (or infamously) were attracted to the rise of fascism - Unity and Diana. In this book, Unity is lampooned as Eugenia Malmains - "England's largest heiress..." and Diana's husband Oswald Mosley is Captain Jack, head of the Union Jack Movement.

The book begins with Noel Foster, a disgruntled office worker who has just received a moderate legacy from an aunt and who sets off, with Jasper Aspect, to marry an heiress. Jasper suggests Eugenia - rich, beautiful and mad, who they come across giving rousing speeches to a bemused local population of farm workers. Before long the two men have a choice of heiresses, with the lovely Lady Marjorie Merrith, her friend Poppy and a local beauty to choose from.

Nancy Mitford was wary of being sued by Oswald Mosley and cut her book by several chapters, although it still caused a massive family rift. After the war the book remained, probably wisely, out of print for seventy five years. However, what Mitford is poking fun out of is really Unity's longing to follow something - as she says in the book, had she been born earlier, she probably would have been a suffragette... So, enter the madness that is Mitford's world; where there is a home for lunatic peers built on the exact plans of the House of Lords, so that "the boys should feel at home," lots of romantic trysts and a pitched battle between the Social Unionists and the Pacifists. This is far from her best work, but it is still an interesting read.
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on 22 July 2014
I enjoyed this novel, but not as much as her later works. However, there were some hysterical witty quips and farcical send-ups that made this a most enjoyable read. I think that, due to it being set in a small country town, there was not the same sense of satirical observations of the upper classes that Mitford is so good at in her later novels. It is also a much smaller book conceptually, because it focuses on small middle-class characters with few eccentricities, and is set in a small town. After reading her later novels where the English countryside, London, Paris and rural France are frequent destinations, Wigs on the Green seemed like a smaller novel comparatively. You can certainly see, once reading a few of her novels, that her writing style continues to get better and better, and her confidence grows with the realization of the strengths in her writing.

Not my favourite Mitford, but still a fantastic read.
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I love Nancy Mitford's writing, and am so delighted that the powers that be have seen fit to republish her earlier works. This is not up to the standard of Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, but then that was always going to be a tall order. It is however, very funny, quite astute and has moments of sharp social observation which make it typically Mitford and well worth a read. The story about fascism, which has received so much attention, really is no more shocking than P.G. Wodehouse's depiction of it in his celebrated Jeeves and Wooster books. The framing of the action around the pageant also reminds me of the wonderful social comedies of E.F. Benson in his Mapp and Lucia stories. A funny, endearing, witty book with much to recommend it.
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on 6 June 2014
I was delighted to get hold of this book which has been unobtainable for some time. It is much referred to in biographies of N Mitford
though in some cases I think the book is overrated - unlike her other novels the humour can appear dated . Its difficult to imagine that
such a trifle could cause so deep a family rift between her and her sister Diana. I can 't imagine wanting to re read it.
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on 16 September 2010
I have never really shared the popular view of Nancy Mitford's writing prowess. This particular novel suffers from being a very early one of hers - before she developed her later rather special style. Its main merit is her lampooning of her flaky sister Unity and her doubtless sincerely held but extreme beliefs. The rest of the novel compares poorly with P.G.Wodehouse on an off day.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2010
Such a hoot. A really funny dig at fascisim in the Thirties. Great light reading. You'll want to read more Mitford!
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on 7 August 2014
I have been reading all the Mitford girl's books I can find. Nancy Mitford's later books, Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, The Blessing, Don't tell Alfred are all timeless classics. Wigs on the Green is an early work which would have been much inproved if the missing chapters about Captain Jackshirt had been included.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2010
I'm hugely fond of Nancy Mitford's later books, she was witty and observant and they are great comfort reads. All of them have dated and are very much of their time, but this one suffers particularly from it's pre-war timing and I think her decision not to republish it in her lifetime was correct.

The problem is not only that a comedy about Fascists is a still thoroughly wince-worthy these days, it's also that her characters aren't particulalry developed and are therefore not very sympathetic. It reads like what it is, the early immature writing of good social novelist. I read it out of curiosity, and I think that's what its appeal is limited to. If I'd picked it up at a friends and hadn't paid for it, I'd have found it moderately amusing. As something I shelled out hard cash for, it feels a bit like a waste of time and money.
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on 3 January 2015
Ghastly; couldn't finish it. Having recently reread 'The Blessing' and 'Don't tell Alfred', I am convinced that, as a novelist, only 'The Pursuit of Love' and 'Love in a Cold Climate', Mitford's middle period are worth places in my library.
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