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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 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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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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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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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 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 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 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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on 20 November 2012
Wigs on the Green was Nancy Mitfords 3rd novel.
I came to it having enjoyed Love in a Cold Climate,Dont Tell Alfred,The Blessing etc which were all funny and full of endearing characters.I realized this early novel which was dealing with the aristocracy's espousal of Mosley's black shirts and Fascism was going to be a difficult subject for an author who's family had been torn by this issue in real life, but I had hoped Mitfords humour might carry it off.
It didnt.
It was impossible to identify with any of the characters or to feel that their flaws just made them more human.They seem silly, unpleasant,and I wished one of Germanys bombs might fall on Chalford.
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on 4 October 2011
Diana (Mitford) Mosley hated this book so I had to read it since everything that she hated is close to the truth. She lived a lie her entire life and could not handle any criticism against her beloved Nazis or Leader. But her sister could not accept what she saw going on in her family. I am glad that Nancy Mitford stood her ground and published this book against the family wishes. The book being a study of National Socialism as it appeared in her sisters Unity and Diana. As Deborah (Mitford) Cavendish wrote in 1960 about Nancy: "she's not inventive, merely a good reporter" (p. 340 in the Mitfords Letters between six sisters).

To the upper classes that she describes, this book might have been hilarious. IF they were able to laugh at themselves OR at people in their acquaintance. But for other social classes this book would hardly have been seen as comical and it is not so in today's world. It's not a funny P. G. Wodehouse since it lacks the brilliant language of his that comes from education. But it is a social study all right.

The story line is as follows: Young Noel Foster has inherited 3 314 pounds and with that in hand, he quits his job to find and marry an heiress. Unfortunately he contacts an old school mate named Jasper Aspect, for help in this quest, even though Jasper lives off his friends, lies, cheats, STEALS, is a womanizer and uses people to HIS own benefits only. Jasper invites himself to spend the legacy and to go to Chalford where he knows there is an heiress: Eugenia Malmains, a 17-year-old that has nothing in her head except National Socialism. The two men are persuaded by her to join the party, in order to court her. At the Inn where they are staying, two young women soon join them. Marjorie, who has run away from her wedding to a duke, and her friend Poppy, whose husband always chases debutantes every season.

Jasper falls for Poppy and Noel soon fancies himself in love with the local beauty, Mrs. Lace. The entire book is about a planning a garden party and pageant, in Eugenia's honour and as her coming out party. But the whole thing turns out to a National Socialism event instead. At the end of the book, one woman gets married and another engaged but like her other books, this one doesn't take off, it doesn't really lead in to anything since the characters are so empty like all her characters always are, they are totally 2D and in this book, very unlikeable. Perhaps it could have become a play if National Socialism hadn't been so offensive as it is.
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