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A Talent to Annoy: Essays, Articles and Reviews, 1929-68 Hardcover – 1 Sep 1986

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd; First Edition edition (Sept. 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241119162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241119167
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,660,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
Like most journalism, Nancy Mitford's was for the most part written to meet a deadline - expected to entertain this week's readers but not to survive or stay relevant beyond that. Charlotte Mosley's wide-ranging selection of Mitford's writings, however, collected from the whole period of Mitford's career, is stuffed full of journalism that is still interesting, perceptive and often very funny.
From the early days submitting columns to Vogue and The Lady, where the narrow upper class focus of Mitford's interests ('At A Point-to-Point', 'The Secret History of a London Wedding')are redeemed (in part) by her wit and perception, to the post-war historical writings and reports on France,Mitford continued to communicate a fresh, irreverent take on issues of class, culture and society. While refusing to respect the sacred cows of her class (her essay on 'u' and 'non-u',reprinted here in full, is a particularly piquant example), Mitford's focus stayed mostly on the aristocracy ('In Defence of Louis XV','Portrait of a French Country House', to name but a few) so the appeal of this book will be limited to readers prepared to engage with this.
In the end, while this book contains some perceptive reviews and high-quality humorous writing, it is perhaps more likely to be interesting for the background it gives on the life of Nancy Mitford than for its journalistic qualities.
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Format: Paperback
This book was edited by Nancy's sister's daughter-in-law, and I am sure that she wanted to give a varied view on Nancy's writing. Some of the articles that she wrote are hilarious and worth a five star, like the article on going to a Wagner opera. But other articles are an outright bore to get through or terribly dated like the Paris Column. Personally I would have loved to have read more things like the ones she wrote for The Lady magazine.

Short articles on one topic seems to have been her real forté. Reading for example the article "The Shooting Party" was very funny but when she wove the details from it, in to her novel Highland Fling and suddenly put persons in to it, then it lost it's charm. The same goes for the article "At a Point-to-Point", that was very funny but not so at all, in her novel Christmas Pudding.

This book contains everything. From the famous U and Non-U article that created an uproar in England, to book reviews on topics that she later would write about,like Louis XIV, and articles about friends like her old nanny.

The article on British Aristocracy might be a good pre-requisite to all of her novels to avoid getting irritated at all her characters decadency! It explains a lot, like why people thought it right to live off others and not lift a finger to earn any money themselves.
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Format: Paperback
I'd probably buy anything churned out by the Mitford Industry as I find the latest volumes of letters etc to be highly amusing and readable, however, a large portion of this book has already been published in Nancy Mitford's The Water Beetle, for instance: U & Non U English, the essays on Blor, Fashion, foreigners and Ireland. I say, save your money and purchase TWB originally written by Nancy as it is much more amusing. Charlotte Mosley, through no fault of her own (I am sure) has been editing works that are already available, I wish she'd introduce fresh material as I am beginning to tire of reading the same old thing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was fun to read her letters from Paris in the time I was there A voice from the past.
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