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Don't Tell Alfred Paperback – August 10, 2010

29 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Radlett & Montdore Series

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Editorial Reviews


“A wickedly clever novel in Nancy Mitford’s best vein, hilariously funny in conception and execution.” —Chicago Tribune 

 “Witty, high-spirited, entertaining, perceptive, and both a little cozy and a little cruel.” —The New York Times

About the Author

Nancy Mitford, daughter of Lord and Lady Redesdale and the eldest of the six legendary Mitford sisters, was born in 1904 and educated at home on the family estate in Oxfordshire. She made her debut in London and soon became one of the bright young things of the 1920s, a close friend of Henry Green, Evelyn Waugh, John Betjeman, and their circle. A beauty and a wit, she began writing for magazines and writing novels while she was still in her twenties. In all, she wrote eight novels as well as biographies of Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire, Louis XIV, and Frederick the Great. She died in 1973. More information can be found at

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307740846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307740847
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
Don't Tell Alfred catches up with some of the characters from The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford's two masterpieces. Once again Fanny Logan is the narrator, but this time the action is set in Paris, where Fanny's husband has been appointed the British Ambassador. Fanny has to deal with the problem of the preceding Ambassadress still being in residence and refusing to leave, then with the multiple problems that come with being related to the Radletts, who are made out to be the battiest aristocrats in Britain.
Don't Tell Alfred was written in the late 1950s while Nancy Mitford was living in Paris. A lot of the political inside jokes will fly right over the heads of most readers today, and Mitford's attempts to depict Teddy Boys and rock and roll bands must have seemed unintentionally comic even then.
Even though this is not one of Mitford's best works, it does have her sharp wit and felicitous turns of phrase, and for those alone the book is well worth the reading.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
Nancy Mitford wrote this delightful novel in 1960. Lady Wincham, the unworldly wife of an Oxford Don, is apprehensive when she discovers her husband has been appointed the new ambassador to France. When the Winchams arrive at their new residence, they find that the previous ambassador's wife has refused to leave. Mitford gives a tongue in cheek look at the love/hate relationship between England and France. Alfred Wincham must weather a crisis when a teenage rock star causes a riot of fans in front of the official residence. Mitford fills the book with memorable characters, such as Northey, the lovely but impractical secretary, and the rebellious sons who leave their boarding school to take a high paying factory job. Charles-Eduard, the sophisticated French aristocrat, and his English wife, Grace, are on hand to give the Winchams advice on living in France. Mitford enjoys poking fun at both the English and French. Her humor is more sophisticated than P.G. Wodehouse, but will give the reader some good laughs. If you enjoy this, you may want to read Christmas Pudding or the Blessing.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on December 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Nancy Mitford continues the lives and loves of the Radlett family and their various off-spring. In this Fanny, our narrator, first met in the impeccably charming novel "Pursuit of Love", is now in France of the 1950's with her teenage boys bordering on adulthood and jobs. Her husband, Alfred, has moved from the safe cloisters of Oxford into the dizzying world of international diplomacy and is Ambassador for France. Their first problem is getting rid of the old Ambassadress, Pauline, who, despite having been despatched from the embassy onto a train the week before, is discovered holding court to French society in a lesser used wing and shows little sign of budging.
Into this all falls Northey, the daughter of Fanny's cousin, Louisa. Northey has been sent by Louisa to act as Fanny's social secretary, but proves herself singularly unsuited to the position being unable to speak French, and it seems pathologically disinclined to do a lick of work. She is in the way of the British upper-classes, immensely charming and so this is really mostly the story of Northey's pursuit of love. Perhaps not as satirically funny as Mitford's first book in the series but it is still an amusing and witty novel. Characters waltz in and out of scenes without any respect for the plot but with enormous charm and verve. You could still read this book without ever having read any of the others in the series but it would certainly make a lot more sense.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By darragh o'donoghue on November 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
this is the end of the immortal tetralogy that began with 'The Pursuit of Love', and reunites the hitherto discrete characters of 'Love in a Cold Climate' and 'the Blessing'. It is as marvellously funny as ever, written with a disarming surface flippancy, full of seemingly alarming plots petering into nothing, like they do in life. The inter-generational conflict is as marked as ever, although more recognisable to us as Fanny and her people finally face the modern world, which she does with remarkable composure, sense and good humour. The intricacies of post-war Europe (Britain desperate for European unity? Arf!), diplomacy, national crises, the rise of the teenager, the tabloids and pop music give a solid grounding to the flights of eccentricity and romantic comedy.
After the Waugh-like economy of 'The Blessing', 'Don't Tell Alfred' is a much freer read, with less ellipses, more detail, and (I'm afraid), a little more padding. Yet for all the big smiles it puts on your face, it reminded me of Anthony Powell's 'Hearing Secret Harmonies', the closing book of his massive novel, 'Dance to the music of time'. Maybe it's because it's the last book of the series, but there is an underlying melancholy throughout, as we see the dying world of the first three novels finally die. Characters alive and vibrant in previous books are suddenly, unemotionally dead; the character of Cedric in 'Climate' undergoes serious revision; and it is dreadful to see mighty Uncle Matthew finally grounded by old age (although there's marvellous life in the old dog yet). The most remarkable thing is Fanny's voice - once a shy, impressionable, envying onlooker, her middle-aged bossiness, confidence (despite the faux-naivete) and control here is beautifully ineffectual. The Yanky Fonzy climax is a great way to end the series.
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