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Don't Tell Alfred Paperback – August 10, 2010
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“Witty, high-spirited, entertaining, perceptive, and both a little cozy and a little cruel.” —The New York Times
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the third book of the trilogy. It isn't as funny as the other two, and the only real life person in it is the uncle, who comes in at the end for one small scene, then... Read morePublished 7 months ago by S. Morrison
If you enjoy true wit as dry and sparkling as good champagne, Don't Tell Alfred is the book for you. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Kerneen Wright
I have been reading and re-reading Nancy Mitford's novels and non fiction for many years but I seem to have missed this one. Read morePublished 18 months ago by David P. Chandler
Nancy Mitford, the oldest of the famous sisters is a charming novelist. Her books are highly readable and very enjoyable. Read morePublished 19 months ago by LPW
Love the Mitford voice and vision of her world. A window in to a social class and era gone by. Extremely humorous, worldly, witty and warm.Published 22 months ago by Susan F. Weber
Yes, a dull Mitford book. I couldn't finish it. Maybe I'm just sick of the Mitfords who after all were not a very nice bunch.Published 23 months ago by Happy Hill