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Highland Fling Paperback – September 24, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

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“Highland Fling is a taster of coming delights. . . . It is the first time Mitford attempted to quantify and codify and explain the world of her beginnings, always seen with her wonderful, comic vision. . . . There is cruelty beneath the comedy, a kind of sharpness that bears testimony to the force of her judgment even when it is wrapped in the cotton wool of humour. But most of all, there is truth.” —from the Introduction by Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

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 www.nancymitford.com.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345806956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345806956
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on January 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
HIGHLAND FLING is for the most part so accomplished that it's hard to believe it was Nancy Mitford's first novel: it shows already firmly in place her tremendous gift with witty dialogue and her lifelong love of juxtaposing the differing mindsets of the upper classes. Although it shows some structural weakness (or naivete) in that it takes until the fifth chapter for Mitford to introduce her main character Jane Dacre, once Jane enters the picture and the action moves from London to Scotland it never stops being funny.

The set-up involves two dizzy and constantly hard-up London socialities, Walter and Sally Monteath, being asked by Sally's titled aunt to care for her Scottish castle and their seasonal shooting guests where she and her husband the earl are out of the country. To make their stay (which will save them quite a bit of money) more palatable, Sally and Walter invite a few of their friends among the Bright Young Things, Jane and the surrealist painter Albert Gates, come with them. The humor depends on first glance on the generational differences between the elder shooting guests, Establishment monsters of conservativism addicted to hunting and fishing, and the Monteaths' friends, who are their mostly for gossip and aesthetic reasons (Albert, who has taken to calling himself Albert Memorial Gates, is so avant-garde that he has gone to the other extreme and become a devotee of Victoriana, of which the castle abounds but which was very much out-of-date among the Establishment by the time the novel was written).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
Published in 1931, this is Nancy Mitford's first novel. Centred in her world of the aristocracy, the novel concerns young artist, Albert Gates, who returns to England from Paris to stay with his friend Walter Monteath and his wife Sally. The pair are suffering from Walter's complete inability to sustain a job or curtail his spending and are suffering severe financial problems. When Sally is asked to house-sit (or 'castle-sit') the family home of her aunt and uncle, they accept the offer with misgivings, but with the intention of cutting down their spending.

Dalloch Castle has several guests expected, who are looking forward to indulging in their usual sporting activities - notably shooting and fishing. Although Walter and Sally invite Albert and Sally's friend, Jane, they are outnumbered by those of the older generation, who view them with suspicion. Captain and Lady Chadlington, General Murgatroyd, Admiral Wenceslaus, Mr Buggins and Lord and Lady Prague, largely view these Bright Young Things and their outlandish behaviour with a very jaundiced eye indeed. The generation gap throws up all sorts of problems and humorous situations, plus there is a love affair to brighten up the trip and a whole host of fantastic characters. Nancy Mitford is obviously just getting into her stride with this first novel, but her sharp satirical wit is very much in evidence already. Many people deride her novels as aimed at a world which no longer exists and people who no longer matter and that may be true; but she wrote about the world she knew intimately and captured it perfectly. For me, she is one of the greatest comic writers and I look forward to reading her novels in the order she wrote them - reaquainting myself with those I love and discovering those I may have missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
"Highland Fling" is the first of Nancy Mitford's humorous novels set in the 1930s and focused on the folks she knew best--the British aristocracy (titled and monied). The context for the story is largely an extended house party at an estate in Scotland where the agenda is mostly devoted to shooting birds, dining, flirting, changing clothes and inter-generational sparring. The satire that sustains the novel is largely aimed at the older generation who are Edwardian in their outlook and fiercely bigoted about most things modern. The younger characters come in for some skewering as well--here presented by the author as rather over-educated, supercilious, and self-absorbed.

Overall, the book is an agreeable read and portends better stuff to come from Mitford. On the other hand, if you use Evelyn Waugh, Noel Coward or even P.G. Wodehouse as the standard for this kind of writing, you might be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
If you’re looking for a romp through the fringes of high society, look no further than Highland Fling. Reissued by Vintage with an introduction by Julian Fellowes, this volume presents Nancy Mitford’s world of dilettantes and workshy nobles to a new generation of readers.

Young Albert Gates decides to become an abstract painter on the day his best friend Walter Monteath proposes to Sally Dalloch. After two years in Paris, Albert returns to London only to be dragged off to a shooting party at a Scottish castle. There he meets Sally’s friend Jane Dacre, a woman ready to fall in love with anyone since she has nothing better to do. The guests assembled at Dalloch Castle are divided between the conservative ‘grown-ups’—an odd collection of peers and military men—and the younger set, who are only keen on poetry and partying.

It’s hard to sympathize with Sally and Walter Monteath’s money troubles or Jane Dacre’s indecisiveness. Only Albert has some sort of goal for himself, and even he’s haphazard and flighty. Overdrawn at the bank and yet coasting on allowances and their family connections, everyone in Highland Fling leads a charmed existence. Dorothy L. Sayers and Edward Gorey endlessly parodied these sorts of characters, in everything from Clouds of Witness to The Curious Sofa.

Social comedy stems from the clash between the old and the young, the serious and the flippant, the moneyed and their dependents. There’s loads of 1930s pop culture references—everything from Jaeger pajamas to Laszlo—which will probably stump a reader unfamiliar with the time period. Maybe enterprising Downton Abbey fans should take footnotes for their fanfiction.

Highland Fling is like a well-made soufflé; it’s airy and insubstantial. It might leave you craving something with more meat to it.

(I originally reviewed this book for the San Francisco Book Review. This slightly longer version first appeared on my blog.)
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