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Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie

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Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie are two comic novels from early in the career of Nancy Mitford, author of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, here published in one volume with a new introduction by Jane Smiley.

In Christmas Pudding, an array of colorful characters converge on the hunt-obsessed Lady Bobbin’s country house, including her rebellious daughter Philadelphia, the girl’s pompous suitor, a couple of children obsessed with newspaper death notices, and an aspiring writer whose serious first novel has been acclaimed -to his utter dismay- as the funniest book of the year.
In Pigeon Pie, set at the outbreak of World War II, Lady Sophia Garfield dreams of becoming a beautiful spy yet manages not to notice a nest of German agents right under her nose. That is, until the murder of her maid and kidnapping of her beloved bulldog force them on her attention, and her actions prove heroic.

With a lighter tone than Mitford’s later work, these novels offer a subtle/cynical criticism of the shallow and conventional way of life of British upper class in the 20s.

368 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1976

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About the author

Nancy Mitford

72 books656 followers
Nancy Mitford, styled The Hon. Nancy Mitford before her marriage and The Hon. Mrs Peter Rodd thereafter, was an English novelist and biographer, one of the Bright Young People on the London social scene in the inter-war years. She was born at 1 Graham Street (now Graham Place) in Belgravia, London, the eldest daughter of Lord Redesdale, and was brought up at Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire. She was the eldest of the six controversial Mitford sisters.

She is best remembered for her series of novels about upper-class life in England and France, particularly the four published after 1945; but she also wrote four well-received, well-researched popular biographies (of Louis XIV, Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire, and Frederick the Great). She was one of the noted Mitford sisters and the first to publicize the extraordinary family life of her very English and very eccentric family, giving rise to a "Mitford industry," which continues.

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5 stars
55 (13%)
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144 (35%)
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149 (36%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 73 reviews
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,395 reviews583 followers
January 18, 2023
3.5 stars rounded up for the style of humor. It is tongue in cheek, ENGLISH, very dry and often self-effacing. It can bite but not in a any lethal way.

Both are very different. The first is before WWI- in the late 1880's and 1890's- quite before. The second is early WWII (I note that some posters have this wrong.) Pigeon Pie was published in 1940. Yes, they made jokes about Hitler. And the sensibility is far, far from 2010 plus.

What I like so much about both is the wit and Nancy Mitford core writing of real people in mundane and ordinary actions/ lives. Her period pieces are genuine. They are an entire world of habits. No more or no less. Often accompanied by some unpleasant truths of words and outcomes. They are essentially novels of manners and values for those manners long gone.

I enjoyed reading both of these to a 4, as well.
September 19, 2020
Nancy Mitford's wit and biting sense of humor comes through loud and clear in these two novels, both early works of hers, written in the beginning days of World War II.
She charmingly skewers the habits and manners of the idle upper class, a world she knew intimately, her family wealth was gone and she supported herself with her writing.
These books are just as enjoyable to read today as they would have been 80 years ago.
Profile Image for Michaela.
375 reviews34 followers
January 5, 2020
Found the first story better than the second (the spy story is funny, but not the fun about the war and Hitler). A bit inconsistently written, but quite some parts to laugh about.
Profile Image for Shawn Thrasher.
1,841 reviews43 followers
December 12, 2016
I was not as keen on these two Mitford novels (published together) as I was about other Mitford fiction I have read. Christmas Pudding was the better of the two, but still felt disjointed and lurched about, as if it could never decide what it wanted to be or where it wanted to go (although its well worth sticking through to the end, which was unexpectedly and wickedly funny). Pigeon Pie I wanted to like far, far more than I ended up doing so. Flat as a pancake, and I was glad when I was finished reading it.
December 18, 2019
I had never heard of Nancy Mitford before but grabbed this one from the Kindle Prime reading with the mistaken idea that it was a Christmas story. Not at all, but a really entertaining read - or pair of reads, it was two short novels.

Christmas Pudding was a funny story about a group of eccentric characters celebrating Christmas in the English countryside. Pigeon Pie started off a bit slow but turned into a hilarious tale of spies and espionage in WWII London.

Very unique and witty.
Profile Image for QNPoohBear.
3,100 reviews1,484 followers
December 18, 2016
See review for Christmas Pudding

Pigeon Pie takes place during the early days of World War I. The main character, Lady Sophia Garfield, a Bright Young Thing, has been disillusioned in life. She's fallen out of love with her husband and he only sees her as a trophy wife to show off to his business colleagues. To make matters worse, he's fallen in with some weird religious cult from Boston and installed them in their home. Her lover has no thoughts of marriage, but that's fine because Sophia can't bring herself to be divorced, remarried and poor. When war is declared, Sophia thinks she knows exactly what it will be like. At first the reality is much different from expectations: a boring desk job instead of nursing and barely any fighting at all. Then she accidentally discovers a secret that could change the course of the war and bring Britain to her knees.

This story started off reaaaallly slow. It had too much telling and not enough showing. The first half or so is mostly exposition. Then when the plot picks up, it really picks up. I couldn't put it down. I did find it rather obvious and felt that some suspension of disbelief has to happen here, but that's what makes it almost funny. I say almost because it is a story about war. Sophia's inner monologues are funny (unintentionally on her part) and her godfather, Sir Ivor King aka "The King of Song" is a hoot.

The characters are hard to like. Sophia is trapped in a dull marriage. She's completely clueless about anything and her thought process sometimes sounds like a child's. Sophia is very shallow and thus happy or content. She isn't exactly a memorable heroine but she becomes a bit stronger and more interesting at the end. Her husband, Luke, is insanely boring and pompous. He has erroneous opinions about Germany and is as clueless as Sophia sometimes. His attraction to Florence and her bizarre cult is strange. Sophia's lover Rudolph isn't much of a lover. As boring and pompous as Luke us, Rudolph is carefree, happy and really bad at reading people and situations. He doesn't really care much about Sophia. I don't know why they are together. Sophia's rival, "Olga Gogothsy" (fka Baby Baggs) is a stereotypical catty rich woman who always wants to be the center of attention. I didn't like her any more than Sophia did.

My favorite character is Sir Ivor. He's as three-dimensional as Nancy Mitford could make him in this early novel of hers. I can easily picture him and hear him. He is the comic relief character. My love for him only increases as the story goes on. I also loved Millie, the French Bulldog. She's so cute!

I had a bit of a hard time reading some of the propaganda and period viewpoints in this book. There's more than the pre-war story because of the war situation and it's hard to read about the war in hindsight knowing what we know now. That shouldn't stop anyone from trying to read this story though. If you can make it past the first four chapters, the story picks up a bit in Chapter 5.
Profile Image for Maire.
196 reviews14 followers
December 29, 2013
What a strange book! It was funny but so very odd. Unlike many of reviewers, I think that I actually liked Pigeon Pie a bit more than the other. (I think it was the slight "mystery" element that made me more interested in that one.)

Both of these short novels contain a cast of characters that are instantly unlikeable: upper-class egoists who are unintentionally hilarious.

This is definitely British humor, so I wouldn't recommend this to people who don't tend to like that kind of thing.

The setup of Christmas Pudding sounds wonderful, but it fell a little flat to me. For the first half of the story, nothing much happens, and the plot only starts to come out about halfway through. The second half picks up quite a bit, and I started to laugh out loud at some bits.

Pigeon Pie is a bit shorter, so the action starts going much faster, which was really nice. There are some clearly ridiculous things going on in this novel, though, so suspension of disbelief is pretty key here.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed these novels, but mostly they made me excited to pick up some of Mitford's excellent later work.

755 reviews29 followers
September 10, 2016
A very charming novel, but then, I knew it would be: All of Nancy Mitford's novels are delightful. Christmas Pudding was the last of those I'd not read, so now I have read them all. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are her two masterpieces, and I have read them many times, and yet still enjoy them every time. In the unlikely event that the pleasure of them ever dims, I'll reread the others, and her non-fiction books, too -- I think I would enjoy re-reading the biographies nearly as much as the novels.

Christmas Pudding seems a bit like a rehearsal for her later masterworks, but there's nothing wrong with that, in my view. I enjoyed on its own merits, but it was also fun to compare it to the rest of her work. One of the most enjoyable writers I know of, whether she is writing about historical figures (Voltaire, Frederick the Great, Madame de Pompadour) or the fictional versions of her friends and family, Nancy Mitford is a guaranteed good read.
38 reviews
September 30, 2014
I would like to give this book 3 stars, but I don't think "Christmas Pudding" is as enjoyable as "Pigeon Pie."

The main problem I had with "Christmas Pudding" is there were no likeable characters to be found anywhere in the story, And given how relatively short the story is - approximately 200 pages, I thought there were too many characters in the story.

I enjoyed "Pigeon Pie" much more. I think its "English humor" translated well to an American audience. I thought Sophia and the King of Song were absolutely hilarious.....and loveable.
Profile Image for Pamela Mclaren.
1,367 reviews83 followers
December 31, 2020
Both of these stories, while clever, seem a little too silly to me, which is weird because I love reading P.G. Wodehouse and these are very much in the same vein. Perhaps its a little bit too inside baseball for me to truly sit back and enjoy.

Both short comedies were written by Mitford early in her career. The first, the Christmas Pudding, is centered in a country estate of Lady Bobbin. Among the inmates is her daughter, Philadelphia, and two suitors, one of which is a work phobic writer whose first book, meant to be a serious work was received as a comedy. He is on hand pretending to be a tutor to Lady Bobbin's son.

Pigeon Pie is set at the outbreak of World War II and the desire of young Lady Sophia Garfield to become a spy and yet she misses the many clues happening all around her. These are wickedly absurd stories where everyone either is extremely sharp (the German Spies) or extremely obtuse.

Some of both stories is very funny and the characters are well drawn. It just buggers believe some of the antics that they get into. Nevertheless, I'm glad that I read them.
Profile Image for Nancy McKibben.
Author 4 books7 followers
November 3, 2013
Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie
By Nancy Mitford

Christmas Pudding, set in England in the l930s, is Mitford’s second novel, and the premise is amusing: protagonist Paul Fotheringay is in despair because his newly-published novel, into which he has “poured all the bitterness of a bitter soul” and whose ending is “unbearably tragic” has been hailed by one and all as a stunning success - as a comic novel.

Paul is struggling to regain a more scholarly reputation, and he lights on the idea of writing the biography of one Lady Maria Bobbin, a Victorian poet. Alas, he is denied access to her papers by the present Lady Bobbin, who is interested only in the hunt. Undaunted, Paul schemes to pose as a tutor to her son Bobby, a student at Eton, during the holidays, so that he can secretly study the poet’s papers while staying in the house. Bobby happily agrees to the ruse.

Bobby has an attractive sister, Philadelphia Bobbin, who is bored to death in the country and of a marriageable age. While she and Paul make eyes at each other, a horde of Bobbin relatives descend upon the house for Christmas.
Christmas Day itself was organized by Lady Bobbin with the thoroughness and attention to detail of a general leading his army into battle. Not one moment of its enjoyment was left to chance or to the ingenuity of her guests; these received on Christmas Eve their marching orders, orders which must be obeyed to the letter on pain of death.
Like all of Mitford’s novels, Christmas Pudding includes witty dialogue, silly situations, and scathing commentary on the vicissitudes of the upper class.

Pigeon Pie is more a novella, set during the early days of World War II. Sophia is the heroine, married to a former diplomat, now a businessman.
Sophia had a happy character and was amused by life; if she was slightly disillusioned she was by no means unhappy in her marriage. Luke was as cold as a fish and a great bore; soon however she began to regard him as a great joke, and as she liked jokes she became quite fond of him when, which happened soon, she fell out of love with him. . . Luke seemed to be getting very rich. About twice a week he obliged her to entertain or be entertained by insufferably boring business people, generally Americans. . .

‘I simply don’t see the point of getting up at six all the time you are young and working eighteen hours a day in order to be a millionaire, and then when you are a millionaire still getting up at six and working eighteen hours a day, like Mr. Holst. And poor Mrs. Holst, who has got up at six all these years, so that now she can’t sleep in the morning, only has the mingiest little diamond clip you ever saw. What does it all mean?’
The story continues with German spies and counter-spies as Sophia tries her best to contribute to the war effort with results that are occasionally heroic and always entertaining.
Profile Image for Carin.
Author 1 book103 followers
January 3, 2016
This book contains two funny British novellas from one of the Mitford sisters, who I should have read long ago. The first story, Christmas Pudding, is about Paul, a writer who wants to be taken seriously (his first novel was a wildly hilarious success except... he didn't mean for it to be funny) and who wants to write a biography of a female poet. In order to gain access to her journals, he agrees to sign up to be the holiday tutor to a Eton boy (under the agreement he will spend all his time with the journals and not make the boy do any of the studying or exercise his mother wishes). Meanwhile, he falls for Philadelphia, the older sister, and they all spend a lot of time at a nearby cottage, rented out by Paul's friend, a wealthy widow with her eye on a neighborhood farmer. It is amusing and all ends well despite some minor hurdles and a plethora of characters.

Pigeon Pie is even funnier. It's 1940, 8 years after the first story, and war with Germany has begun. Sophia wants to be a spy, like her frenemy Olga is bragging about (and which Sophia suspects is a lie) and instead ends up answering phones and counting laundry at a local first aid station. However, there are spies all around her and she unwittingly get wrapped up in their escapades and hijinks.

Both of these stories are just screaming for Julian Fellows to make them into movies. I worry that I missed several of the jokes, particularly ones that rely on old-fashioned British terminology, and he always makes everything clear even to American audiences. It was particularly fascinating to read about England and Germany just a short time into the war, when the outcome is far from apparent, and without the benefit of hindsight.

Amusing stories, they were perfect for this time of year. If you're an Anglophile and appreciate British humor, these are excellent examples of the fare.
Profile Image for Allison.
202 reviews
December 28, 2013
I really liked Christmas Pudding (Pigeon Pie a little less so). Nancy Mitford is hilarious. It was easy to picture these two as 1930s/40s slap stick movies starring Myrna Loy and William Powell. Delicious banter and silly but biting and witty dialogue all throughout. I want to LIVE in these books--such a fun romp!
Profile Image for Viki.
10 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2013
Nancy Mitford is that gem who's capable of remarking on people's inescapable foibles and deficiencies without truly making them feel deficient. We need more people like her in our lives..

Profile Image for Bryan.
862 reviews6 followers
December 31, 2014
Nancy is everything. I loved Philadelphia Bobbin in Christmas Pudding but I adored Sophia in Pigeon Pie with all my heart. Never mess with a woman's beloved bulldog.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Miss Eliza).
2,326 reviews144 followers
January 17, 2015
*Special Content only on my blog, Strange and Random Happenstance during Mitford March Mach Deux (March 2014)

Christmas Pudding
Date I read this book: December 19th, 2013

Paul Fotheringay is gutted. His first book Crazy Capers is an unrivaled success. Most authors would be pleased with this development, but not Paul. He poured his heart and soul into his book that he hoped would be heralded as a literary masterpiece only to have everyone think it is a comedy. Not just that, but the funniest book they have ever read. His tragedy is a laughing matter. In fact his whole life is rather tragic at the moment. His friend Amabelle, a rather notorious woman, tells Paul that the only hope he has now of being taken seriously is to follow up his first book with an in depth biography, something no one could mistake as farcical. He decides that the only possible subject for his masterpiece is the Victorian poetess Lady Maria Bobbin. Paul writes an impassioned letter to the family imploring Lady Bobbin to allow him access to Maria's diaries and ephemera. Lady Bobbin, being more concerned with hoof and mouth and when she'll be able to return to the hunt swiftly denies Paul and his life becomes even bleaker.

If Paul had only consulted Amabelle before approaching Lady Bobbin things could have been easily solved because, as it happens, Amabelle is good friends with Lady Bobbin's son and heir, Sir Roderick Bobbin, and Paul actually knows Bobby too! But instead of a straight forward plea to see the diaries which Paul's letter to Lady Bobbin makes impossible, they come up with an elaborate scheme wherein Paul is pretending to be Bobby's tutor over the winter holidays, so while Bobby sleeps in in the mornings, Paul spends his time immersed in Lady Maria's writings, and then they spend the afternoons "taking exercise" at Lady Bobbin's request. Of course, the "exercise" isn't really what Lady Bobbin expects, because it's really playing cards and gossiping at a nearby farm Amabelle has let for Christmas and is sharing with her friends the Monteaths. Things get even more out of hand when Amabelle's amorous suitor returns from Egypt but falls for Bobby's sister, whom Paul is also falling for. Add to that more relatives then you can possibly imagine descending on Compton Bobbin, and things are about to get real sticky.

Nancy Mitford, while perhaps best known for her witty writing, also seems to have an interesting secondary agenda of addressing the foibles of humans in love, one might even say a primary objective given her later books. While I wouldn't call her view jaundiced, it's more like she can pick up on the folly of those who see their love through rose colored glasses. Love is not put on a pedestal, yet there is true love. Love is viewed more realistically and handled in a way that makes it more true to life then other writers. She has handled this in every book of hers that I've read, though some more successfully then others it must be said. Christmas Pudding is only her second novel and you can easily see that this is the case. While her themes are there she hasn't yet gotten the cohesiveness that will mark her more famous novels. Instead of a well plotted book infused with humor, we get great one liners, wordplay that you will want to quote all day and all night, but her youthfulness in going for the bon mot versus the long game with a constructed storyline makes this book not as memorable.

This isn't to say that you won't have a good read, Nancy has this way of capturing the conflict between the horse and hounds set versus the bright young things that will leave you wanting more. The conflict I think probably accurately depicts the life she lived. Known to mine the personalities of those around her, you can easily see her parents in those who would rather live in their big drafty old house and shoot things, while she is the young girl longing to be amongst the bright lights in the big city while simultaneously being a bright young thing. Because Nancy has been both. She was trapped in the country and ill educated for so many years that when she did go to London she sparkled as a wit of the day. This dynamic of the two opposite mentalities clashing is what brings some of the heartiest laughs. Yet I think it's Nancy's willingness to make fun of herself foremost that makes this book stand out.

With Paul Fotheringay, we have a character who is very much taking the piss out of writers and therefore Nancy herself. I can just see Nancy chuckling as she wrote Paul's dilemma. Having only written Highland Fling, a well received comedy, she probably thought it would be hysterical if she had meant it as one thing and everyone took it as another. Could you imagine Nancy being viewed as anything but a classic comic writer? But one also wonders if there isn't more then a little truth here. Nancy was great at blending fact and fiction into her works. So what if she wanted to be considered a serious writer? I'm not saying that at the time Christmas Pudding was written she had this ambition, but it is odd that she ending up going the same was as Paul. What do I mean? Well, she did take to writing biographies... now her subjects weren't as satire worthy as the great Lady Maria Bobbin, but we can't ignore the fact that Nancy's biographies are popular. Was this her way of trying to legitimize herself? Because having a character like Amabelle who is obviously a parody of Madame de Pompadour, and then some twenty years later actually writing a biography of Madame de Pompadour... we're getting into a whole other level of meta and it makes me want to sit down with Nancy and have a little chat. What did she mean by this? Did she want to be known for her scholarly books more then her comedic prose? Looking back, is Paul, in the end, a tragic figure to her?

Pigeon Pie
Date I read this book: March 7th, 2014

Sophia Garfield has had this fixed and glamorous image of what the outbreak of war would be like. Needless to say she is very let down when it doesn't live up to any of her expectations. Her husband is busy with his mistress, who is now living under the same roof as Sophia, not that she really minds, seeing as her own lover is there as well. Sophia is more put out because she sent her dog to the country for safety and is missing the little brute. The war is looking as if it's going to be very dull. Where are the spies and the romantic secret agents? And she's not talking about her friends who are pretending to be secret agents, but the real kind. Sophia does her duty though and starts work at a First Aid Post, which holds more dull drudgery in spades. She thinks it all might be more interesting if the war were to actually start in earnest, but little does she know that she's about to wind up in the middle of a giant German conspiracy. Her godfather, Sir Ivor King, is about to help Britain launch a musical campaign to bring the Germans to their knees when he is apparently murdered. This is just the first event in a series of odd occurrences that might just help Sophia get the excitement she wanted out of the war.

Sometimes you're reading a book and you can see exactly what the author was trying to do. You know what their intent was. In fact, they are trying so hard it's almost a little painful to read. But in the end their efforts fall flatter then flat and it's not that the book is bad, it's just that it's almost a nonentity. You could take or leave the book and it wouldn't matter one whit. This is exactly how I felt reading Pigeon Pie. There was one instance when I was almost drawn in, when Sir Ivor King was murdered, but that moment of shock had no follow through. The book just went back to it's standard level of blah. This is the first of Nancy Mitford's books to leave no impression on me. On the whole I have enjoyed everything she has written, except Don't Tell Alfred, but there I felt Nancy was trying to be too much and too modern while cashing in on her previous successes with the Radlett family. I have been mulling over as to why I feel this way and I think I have stumbled on an answer. While the basic framework of working in a First Aid Post is drawn from Nancy's own experiences, the farcical spies are pure imagination and just don't work. I think Nancy is one of those writers who excel at writing what she knows. I mean, what's the basic advice to beginning writers: write what you know. Nancy is amazing at this. She turns her jaded eye on the society she was raised in and with witty quips writes books that are a delight to all. Throw in something out of her milieu, and, well, you get Pigeon Pie.

In fairness to Nancy, it's hard to make spying funny in a wartime situation. Even the masters of movie comedies, the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrams, failed atrociously with Top Secret! Which, for whatever reason I still keep watching... ah, young Val Kilmer, I can't look away, old Val Kilmer, make it stop. On a side note, Jim Abrams was the speaker for my graduation from the UW-Madison, I mention it for no reason at all, other then it was kinda cool. Yet there is one other movie to which I kept comparing this book and thinking, yes, that is what Nancy was trying to do. That movie is The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming. While set during the Cold War not WWII, it's pure farce with Russians running around New England and the comedic geniuses of Jonathan Winters, Alan Arkin, and Carl Reiner. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought it was pure genius when I watched it as a little kid because looking it up now it was nominated for best picture at the Oscars. This movie has the "comedic chaos" that I think Nancy was aiming for with the Germans taking over the aid post and doing all sorts of dirty deeds under the eyes of the British Government. She just didn't get it. Her Germans pretending to be zealot Americans just made me want to put the book down, walk away, and watch some Russians invading New England.

Yet Nancy might, just might, have been able to overcome her lack of first hand experience with secret agents if she had written a single likable character. Yes, as a rule, she doesn't have the most likable characters. They are more caricatures to be laughed at and made fun of. Though, on the whole, they usually have some redeeming aspect that makes you like them, or at least one character you can side with. Not here. Every character was so unlikable I kind of wanted the Germans to succeed in destroying them. In Nancy's other books which are peopled with vapid, amoral characters, we can laugh at them and feel for them, but not love them. That's why Nancy usually has a balance by having someone like Fanny in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, who is good and true and is the moral compass. We need someone like us looking in on this world where husbands and wives live under the same roof as a couple but with their lovers as well and cast them a gimlet eye; a conduit into the book where we can see Nancy is hopefully making fun of the society she's living in with lovers in the house, instead of it coming across as a fact that make all the characters unlikable. Couple this with in jokes Nancy shared with her sister Diana about golden buttery wigs that make me think of old episodes of Doctor Who for some reason and you can see why Vintage decided to lump this slim volume in with the far better Christmas Pudding, because otherwise no one but the true Mitford devotee would buy it.
Profile Image for Pascale.
1,175 reviews44 followers
December 23, 2021
A pair of very enjoyable early novels by the superbly witty Nancy Mitford. "Christmas Pudding" plays with the age-old formula of mismatched couples reforming in a more suitable pattern. Sir Michael has come back from Cairo with the aim of proposing for the second time to Amabelle, a former courtesan who achieved respectability through marriage and decorous widowhood. Wisely, Amabelle turns him down for good, not only because Michael is a pompous bore, but because she is a fair bit older and knows full well that he will one day regret having married beneath him. Michael then courts his much younger cousin, Philadelphia, who initially prefers the less stuffy but weak-willed Paul, a would-be writer who has been hired, under false pretenses, to tutor her brother Bobby during the Christmas holidays. Precocious, lazy and much too fond of beautiful things, Bobby is a complete snob who likes Paul well enough as long as Paul knows his place and doesn't seriously try to marry into his family. In the end, Amabelle marries her neighbor Major Stanworth and Philadelphia accepts Michael, to the relief of Bobby and their formidable mother, Lady Bobbin, whose only passion in life is hunting. It's one great big romp, underscoring, like so many British novels and movies, that class reigns supreme in that country.
"Pigeon Pie" is an even sharper satire of the British upper classes and their behavior at the outset of WWII, and I am amazed that it was published as early as 1940. Sophia and Luke Garfield have amicably settled for an open marriage, she having an on again/off again affair with Rudolph and he having a more established relationship with Florence. Although Sophia doesn't share Luke's German sympathies, she finds his views unfortunate rather than shocking. Once the war starts, Rudolph forces her to volunteer at a First Aid Post. In an abstract sort of way, Sophia is all for doing your bit for your country, except that she has no skills of any kind and hates the sight of blood. Also, she feels that the only suitable part for her to play in a war would be that of Beautiful Female Spy. Only when she is brought face to face with the fact that Florence is in fact a real German spy does she realize that dabbling in espionage is not for her. Still, with the usual British pluck, she manages to alert Scotland Yard, via Rudolph, just in time for a nefarious plot to be foiled. A major secondary character is Sophia's god-father, a world renown singer who is presumed abducted by the Germans but who turns out to have played a successful double game with them. It's not so much for its nonsensical plot that this novel still bears reading today but for its acid depiction of the complacency of the British establishment and its tolerance of the pro-nazi elements in its midst.
Profile Image for We Are All Mad Here.
530 reviews45 followers
August 29, 2020
Have now sadly finished reading the entirety of Nancy Mitford's fiction.

I preferred Pigeon Pie (originally published 1940) to Christmas Pudding (1932), primarily due to writing like this:

"Darling, I couldn't be a nurse. Florence has a first aid book and I looked inside it and saw a picture of a knee. I nearly fainted. I can't bear knees, I've got a thing about them."

And this:

"'The Press, m'lady,' he said with relish. 'Awful they've been. Nosing round everywhere and taking photos. And the lies they tell, I don't know if you saw, m'lady, they said cook had been with Sir Ivor ten years. It's not a day more than seven.'"

If only Nancy Mitford had had children, so that I could imagine being a long-lost descendant.
Profile Image for Christina.
305 reviews9 followers
January 10, 2018
Droll commentary on cynical, flighty, easily bored Bright Young Things visiting country manors in the Christmas season, enduring tribulations like unrequited love, mismatched dalliances, drunken adventures on point-to-point races, hoof-and-mouth disease, newborns, and inept bridge partners.
Profile Image for Jossalyn.
702 reviews15 followers
December 28, 2020
2 short novels by a FAV author. her wit, style of writing, familiar turns of phrase, all present. didn't find the storylines as compelling as those from Love in a cold climate and The Pursuit of Love- but those sparkling gems are hard to surpass.
Profile Image for Sophie.
516 reviews13 followers
January 30, 2022
I enjoyed this one - Christmas Pudding was a Wodehouse-esque escape to the country house with a scheme at play, and Pidgeon Pie was a ridiculous and witty spy mystery set in the early days of WW2. These are clearly examples of Mitford's early writing, and so pales in comparision with her classic novels. Nevertheless, they are great fun.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
158 reviews
January 5, 2018
I don't know why I was so bogged down in this book for so long.
Profile Image for Bronwyn.
690 reviews55 followers
July 15, 2014
This book is why I don't like rating books of multiple stories. I really enjoyed Christmas Pudding, but really didn't care for Pigeon Pie. I see this was roughly the case for the other reviewer too.

Christmas Pudding reminded me of Vile Bodies or Decline and Fall where everything is so ridiculous and twisty but fun. The whole premise of the tutor who's not really a tutor, and the serious book that wasn't taken seriously were just too funny and worked out about how you expected. Add in people who are in the country but hate the country, frivolous parents who don't seem too concerned with their child, and pretty young girls and you have a great bunch of characters.

Pigeon Pie on the other hand seems like it should work. Again, the premise is just so ridiculous and twisty. This time it doesn't work though. You never really are made to care for the characters. And there are just too many twists and unbelievable premises for it to work. I get that it was supposed to make fun of the Phony War, ie WWII before it really took off, and so it's supposed to be over the top, but it just didn't work for me.

Christmas Pudding alone would've gotten 4 stars. Pigeon Pie, maybe 2. So together the volume gets a 3. :/
Profile Image for Rebecca.
238 reviews9 followers
October 7, 2013
Christmas Pudding seems to have all the necessary ingredients for a fun read: a motley collection of characters gathered together, as they would be for a cozy mystery. Moreover, it had the advantage of sharp observations and biting comments that made me laugh out loud, however, the rest of the book was a bit lacking. Overall, the majority of the book was a bit pointless. I didn't warm to or ever feel that I really knew any of the characters, and the various dilemmas (of which there are very few) have no emotional weight or consequence, either for the reader or the characters. However, as a light read with the occasional very clever remark, it's not bad.
Pigeon Pie is a different consideration altogether. Most of the characters seem similarly opaque, but there is a protagonist which it is possible to mildly like. The story follows her, and though the plot feels fairly slight, Mitford ups the stakes enough to actually make the reader care what happens.
Profile Image for Jane.
641 reviews34 followers
December 10, 2014
I'm mystified that it took me so long to come around to Nancy Mitford - she is, after all, pretty much everything I like. These read like a mix of PG Wodehouse, her friend Evelyn Waugh, and a mildly raunchier humor that might have shown up in Playboy thirty years later. I was periodically torn between thinking it was all very sophisticated and then slapsticky. To wit:

Sophia poured out tea, and asked after his Lesbian irises.
'They were not what they seemed,' he said, 'wretched things. I brought the roots all the way from Lesbos, as you know, and when they came up, what were they? Mere pansies. Too mortifying.'

Har har har.
Profile Image for Laurel.
166 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2014
Christmas Pudding was a fun read. A bit of the Shakespearian comedy about it. People pretending to be who they are not getting caught in their own ruse. Social satire and ludicrous happenstance. Without the turn I phrase. Made me chuckle. Couldn't bring myself to read Pigeon Pie though. Started it and had the feeling it was more of the same. Not a lot of investment in the characters. Maybe later.
Profile Image for Maura.
694 reviews
May 27, 2014
Mitford's tales are always fun to read, light, frothy things full of silliness. But they are a bit dated in their references at time, and I'm sure there are plenty of inside jokes lost on those of us from a different time and society. These two stories are similar to a Wooster and Jeeves story, with misread motives, missed meetings, and somewhat madcap behavior. Pigeon Pie is the funniest WWII spy story I've ever come across.
Profile Image for Melanie Moore.
394 reviews6 followers
January 8, 2014
This book is actually two books in one. I really enjoyed Christmas Pudding. It was published in 1932. The second book, Pigeon Pie, was published in 1940. It was interesting to read the perspective of a book about World War II being written in England in 1940. The problem was it dragged a bit and the characters were not as likable as Christmas Pudding.
Profile Image for Kimba.
94 reviews4 followers
December 28, 2013
A third-rate Mitford, unfortunately. A trifle of a novella without much in the way of plot or hilarity. I didn't even attempt to read "Pigeon Pie" as it's apparently not even as good as "Christmas Pudding".
Profile Image for Jennifer.
94 reviews3 followers
May 15, 2015
Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford are two comedies written and set in the 1930's. Christmas Pudding reminds me of a screwball comedy set in a country house filled with colorful characters. Pigeon Pie was not quite as fun as Christmas Pudding, but still a fun read.
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