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The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London Hardcover – 10 Nov 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition edition (10 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297859609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297859604
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.8 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 531,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A biography of the love affair between Nancy Mitford and the Free French commander who inspired her to write her most famous novel, The Pursuit of Love. Drawing on unpublished correspondence, this is a sympathetic and cautionary tale about falling for a philanderer (Sebastian Shakespeare TATLER)

This biography of Nancy Mitford's tumultuous post-war love affair with Gaston Palewski (immortalised in The Pursuit of Love as Fabrice de Sauveterre) paints a portrait of a relationship as agonising as it was intense, sweeping the reader up with conspiratorial ease (EASY LIVING)

Nancy Mitford was elegant, clever, witty and exceptionally beady-eyed about the world. So why did she have such awful taste in men? This is the subject of the historian Lisa Hilton's entertainingly caustic The Horror of Love... Her book is not just a crisply written account of their relationship but also something of a manifesto for a more pragmantic, Gallic approach to human relations (Daisy Goodwin THE SUNDAY TIMES)

Nancy Mitford was an English novelist with a glamour that surpassed even that of her aristocratic sisters. Her lover, Gaston Palewski, was a French politician who featured in disguised form in two of her novels. Their relationship became a tragedy. Mitford fans will love this book, of course, though it says so much more about the compromises and tragedies of love (CATHOLIC HERALD)

well paced and informative (EVENING STANDARD)

This is an account of Nancy Mitford's only real love affair and its title is taken from an exclamation she made to her sister Diana Mosley... it is a story with a delicious mix of drama, melancholy and enchantment (DAILY EXPRESS)

Nancy Mitofrd, aristocrat, author, waspish wit, first laid eyes on Gaston Palewski in 1942 and, for her, it was love at first sight that lasted a lifetime... but the great tragedy of Nancy's life was that to him, she was never "the one"... a compelling account of the 1944 liberation of France and the country's struggle to confront the collaboration... there is so much charm and drama to Nancy and Gaston's lives, embroiled as they were in the key events of the 20th-century (SUNDAY EXPRESS)

The charm of The Horror of Love is its bringing to life the worlds of Nancy Mitford's novels. Its portrait of upper-class postwar Paris, Palewski's femmes du monde extravagantly garbed in Dior's New Look, Mitford and Palewski's shared love of history, paintings and antiques, the glittering parties in splendid houses and the regular recurrence of the Duchess of Devonshire, will surely appeal to Mitford fans, in this book which delights in the more picturesque aspects of its subject. (Matthew Dennison THE INDEPENDENT)

Nancy Mitford - novelist, socialite, most gifted of the famous sisters - pursued a one-sided 30-year affair with French Resistance hero turned diplomat and minister, Gaston Palewski. Hilton's book brings a sharp historian's eye to glittering Paris and London backdrops as this impossible romance unfolds (i newspaper)

Book Description

The compelling love story of two extraordinary individuals - Nancy Mitford and Free French commander Gaston Palewski - living in extraordinary times.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Horror of Love" is a good addition to the Mitford canon. There is very little that is new about Nancy's struggles--personal, financial, romantic or gynecological. The introductory chapters do a brisk but thorough account of Mitford's early years, which are well documented in Mary Lovell's masterwork "The Sisters" and various volumes of Nancy's correspondence. The detail devoted to Palewski's career is fascinating. For many years, readers have been offered little about him that is not couched in "Duc de Sauveterre" fictions. His role during and post-WWII was crucial to the success of the Free French, and essential to DeGaulle's eventual assumption of power. He was clearly a man of formidable intelligence and political skill. His resume as a serial pouncer/adulterer no longer reads with charm, but as pretty creepy, frankly.

Hilton does a credible job of presenting both protagonists warts and all, and what a lot of warts both had! The descriptions of Palewski's appearance and traffic-stopping halitosis were especially frank. The author also takes the usual descriptions of Nancy's "talent to annoy" one step further, and details the viciousness, bitterness, and cruelty of which she was not only capable, but seemingly proud. I suspect that many of her famous prejudices (children, Americans, and her insistence that the two are interchangeable) may have started off as a tease, but later in her life, became ingrained and rather ugly.

Nancy Mitford's novels are wonderful romps, delightful to read, frothy and not particularly substantial. (Which doesn't mean I don't love them!) Her non-fiction works, particularly her biography of Mme. de Pompadour, are scrupulously researched and beautifully written.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This appalling waste of money is 262 pages long. Lisa Hilton does not begin her pointless 'exploration' of Nancy Mitford's 30 odd year relationship with Gaston Palewski until page 133. There is no structure to this book, the literary style is risible and there are no new insights; just a skewed attempt to make readers believe Nancy had some say in what was a rather sad scenario . There is more detail about M. Palewski's career than might ordinarily appear, but he would be no more than a very minor footnote in a biography of De Gaulle if it were not for his involvement with a Mitford. Selina Hastings' biography of Nancy has all the information contained here, and more. I am taking 'The Horror of Love' to a charity shop tomorrow. Good luck to someone - I wish I hadn't bought it and feel somewhat daft for having done so...
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Format: Hardcover
It took as far as chapter twelve for Nancy Mitford and Palewski to get together and I was so disappointed . I feel the writer used a great deal of padding beforehand to get to what I wanted to know about this romance and then it revealed very little more than other biograhphies of Nancy Mitford had already told us. I was not impressed with her description of the character of Nancy Mitford either, comparing her to Marmite: you either liked her or not!

I feel she did not have enough research material to make this a really interesting account of the romance. Also I was not convinced by her character analyses of Palewski and why Mitford found him so spellbinding. On the one hand we are told she disliked Americans because they were so immature, yet she was obsessed with someone who's maturity could be questioned throughout the book. I felt after reading this book no different to when I read her earlier biography and that is how could such a talented writer like Nancy Mitford be obsessed with such a pathetic bore. I had hoped to be enlightened about the affair and learn something new, but sadly that was not the case
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book treats of the protracted love affair between Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski, known to the 'Nancy Fancy' as Col or the Colonel, and also as the model for the thinly disguised Fabrice de Sauveterre in The Pursuit of Love. They met in London when GP was with the Free French delegation assisting Charles de Gaulle, and from then his career was entwined with de Gaulle's. He was also amorously entwined with Nancy from then on (and sometimes off) until her death, although to her despair he had affairs with many other women, sired an illegitimate son without her knowledge, and eventually married a stratospherically wealthy duchess; ironically a Protestant divorcee like Nancy herself. Gaston was clearly one of those men who can charm and entrance women despite unprepossessing looks and epic halitosis, and surely one of the great links between him and Nancy was their love of "things" and of furnishing a home with lovely and interesting pieces.

The main interest of this book for me was the filling in of Gaston's family, background and career, which makes this an essential addition to the Mitford Shelf. After the war he was never far from the centre of power, and probably the apogee of his career was to be the French Ambassador to Rome, where he lived in the Palazzo Farnese. Sadly Nancy was unable to enjoy this success as she was constrained to visit him there only occasionally and quietly, mainly in August, when no-one of any note is at home in Rome. Maybe Peter Rodd's refusal to grant Nancy a divorce for such an age actually protected her from what could have been a tragically unhappy marriage with Gaston?

Like Nancy, who disguised painstaking research with an effortless writing style, Lisa Hilton has written a fascinating and most readable book on the affair between Nancy and Gaston, and fleshed out Nancy's life in Paris following her move there after the war. For anyone with an interest in this period, it really is a must.
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