One part romance, one part comedy and two parts a send up of the upper classes by one of their own – but no happy endings in this pursuit of love

Ever heard someone say, ‘love the book but hated the film?’ The main reasons being major changes to the plot and the actors more no relationship to how the reader had imagined them. It’s a reoccurring sentiment with few people feeling that almost any film or TV adaption fails to live up to the original. And so it seems to be with Nancy Mitford’s parallel novels of Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love set in the 1930s and 1940s. Published in the 1940s after the war the books have been adapted for the screen several times.

Directed by Donald McWhinnie, Thames Television’s 1980 production featured the two novels in an eight part series. It starred Lucy Gutteridge as Linda and Rosalyn Landor as Fanny and the novel’s narrator while in 2001 The BBC featured Rosamund Pike as Fanny and Elisabeth Dermot Walsh as Linda in their TV series directed by Tom Hooper of both novels. Last year the BBC again screened an updated adaptation of The Pursuit of Love with Lily James as Linda and Emily Beecham as Fanny Logan – directed with considerably more joie de vivre by Emily Mortimer with a mash up of the original novel with witty graphics, still photos and music by T-Rex, Joan Armatrading and The Who. There’s a huge contrast in the way the 1980 version was filmed to the one in 2021 – which reflects the changing filming techniques and technical advances and the way directors and screenwriters take a more liberated view of the original novel.

One critic suggested the latest TV series was one that would either be hated or loved as Mitford devotees would only want to see a faithful representation of the books. But if you take the spirit of The Pursuit of Love and update it and take the liberties made by writer and director Emily Mortimer (who also played The Bolter – Fanny’s runaway mum) then like me you’ll love it.

The main theme of The Pursuit of Love is perhaps not so much love but the elusive nature of love with the main protagonist Linda Radlett desperate to fall in love – sadly with the wrong man Tony Kroesig who she leaves for Christian Talbot who prefers Lavender Davies before she is discovered by the doomed love of life Fabrice de Sauveterre before dying in childbirth back in England thus leaving a fruitless pursuit of love.

Despite the lack of a happy ending it’s funny, witty and has some wonderful lines in it. “It’s not as though she could be in love. She’s Forty.” And “He was the great love of her life you know.’ ‘Oh, dulling,’ said my mother, sadly, ‘One always thinks that. Every, every time.”

Harry Mottram

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