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Nancy Mitford's Pigeon Pie: More Nazis and Some Retrospective Awkwardness

If you will remember, Nancy Mitford's first novel, Wigs on the Green was about Nazis, but 1935 Nazis when people were all "What-ho, this Hitler chap seems maybe not the best, but it's not as if he's committing genocide against his own countrymen and trying to take over the world."

"I see no problem here."

CUT TO 1940, when Pigeon Pie was published (Mitford had published no novels in the interim). War had been declared, but no one (or at least not Nancy Mitford) was taking it seriously:

Rather soon after the war had been declared, it became obvious that nobody intended it to begin. The belligerent countries were behaving like children in a round game, picking up sides, and until the sides had been picked up the game could not start[...] America, of course, was too much of a baby for such a grown-up game, but she was just longing to see it played.

*mutters* "Saved YOUR ass."

 Pigeon Pie concerns a will-o-the-wisp socialite who's trying to stay entertained in the midst of this war outbreak. She volunteers at an emergency medical post, but they just do drills since nothing has really happened yet. The London Blitz wasn't until fall of 1940, so the publication of this was undoubtedly ill-timed since the whole war is portrayed primarily as a nuisance.

There're obvious Secret Spy Shenanigans happening around her, but as she's something of a female Bertie Wooster, only the reader notices them. Mysterious birds flying around the house? A furiously winking and gagged servant being carried out on a stretcher? And where has her uncle, the world's greatest singer, disappeared to and why is his wig found on the green when that was the title of the OTHER book.

I'm left in something of a confounded state by Mitford's writing, because I like it to the extent that it makes me want to hang out with her at a party. I'm planning on reading all her books, not because they're my absolute favorite, but because she provides a very unique view. You didn't often have women, especially upper class women, writing novels around World War II and giving a glimpse into her class's sentiments about that time. 

The sentiments, again, seem to be that no one seemed very worried until late 1940.
"Of course I don't want to say I told you so, darling, but there's never been a pin to put between the Communists and the Nazis. The Communists torture you to death if you're not a worker, and the Nazis torture you to death if you're not a German. If you are they look at your nose first. Aristocrats are inclined to prefer Nazis while Jews prefer Bolshies."

Mitford's books are popular enough that they're always checked out of the library, and they keep being reprinted. But I'd be hard-pressed to find any of my friends having read them. It seems you need to be into Wodehouse-type literature, England in the 1930s & '40s, and find the quietly funny English novel of that period a rip-roaring good time to be a Mitford fan. I'm finding myself in an uncomfortable middle ground on all those points, but it's enough to have bought Love in a Cold Climate the last time I was drunk at a bookstore (i.e. last week).  Let's see if you improve when you're not airily dismissing Nazis, Mitford.


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