Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"All's Not Gold that Glitters"

I have been immensely enjoying this book, even if I can only digest 3-4 pages before bed. Nancy Mitford (who appears, donned in taffeta and flowers, on the cover) was a contemporary of Evelyn Waugh. Her prose is enchanting and full of wit and I have found myself easily captivated, both by her eccentric characters (the infamous Radletts), and her ability to capture "the vanished world of aristocratic country life in England during 'the time between the wars.'"

Of the Radlett family, she writes, "[They] were always either on a peak of happiness or drowning in black waters of despair; their emotions were on no ordinary plane, they loved or they loathed, they laughed or they cried, they lived in a world of superlatives."

When I read this passage I had to lay the book down. It was as if a mirror had been held up to the visage of my own family!

Mitford's novel is written from the point of view of Fanny, the adolescent cousin of the Radlett children. Fanny is an orphan of sorts, brought up by her pragmatic Aunt Emily.

Her biological mother, whose character, The Bolter, is based in actual fact on the real life Lady Idina Sackville, who shocked the society of Edwardian England by divorcing five times, hardly appears in the novel except as a conceptual anti-type to Aunt Emily of whom Fanny says: "Aunt Emily was never glamorous but she was always my mother, and I loved her."

What a simple and yet arresting description of what makes someone a mother! Children may (like all people) be momentarily dazzled by beauty and charm - but their hearts demonstrate an enduring preference for the Aunt Emily's of the world, who offer self-sacrificial love in place of 'all that glitters' and soon fades (Proverbs 31.30).

Like many a girl, I enjoy parties and pearls; but may I always choose to vest my soul in the former things, which will stand the test of time!

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