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Don't Tell Alfred

(Radlett and Montdore #3)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,716 ratings  ·  134 reviews
 
In this delightful comedy, Fanny—the quietly observant narrator of Nancy Mitford’s two most famous novels—finally takes center stage.

Fanny Wincham—last seen as a young woman in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate—has lived contentedly for years as housewife to an absent-minded Oxford don, Alfred. But her life changes overnight when her beloved Alfred is appointed English Ambasstage.

Fanny
...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published January 27th 1993 by Da Capo Press (first published 1960)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  1,716 ratings  ·  134 reviews


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Sketchbook
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Mitford has an acute sense of the absurd. Remember the
thingie about U & Non-U words: Pardon? (Non) What? (U)
that reveal class? Nancy started it all. This drollery
about diplomacy, inspired by her living in Paris, spoons
up like a creamy dessert as the UK ambassador's wife disses
the bores & le beau monde.

Published in 1960, it tweaks the styles and politics of the day. 'What can't be cured must be endured,' says the heroine as she contemplates life after 50 and then find
...more
Leanne (Booksandbabble)
This is the third Nancy Mitford I have read, and unfortunately I did not enjoy it as much as the first two. Fanny is still the narrator of the story but the years have passed and she now has four grown boys. Her Husband, Alfred, a don at Oxford, has taken over as Ambassador to France and so Fanny up and moves to Paris.
It is here we meet a whole host of characters, some likable and some not. Fanny has to learn the role of Ambassadress and familiarize herself with all the new faces. Poor Fanny's
...more
Ali
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Nancy Mitford and I loved this novel. It may not quite have the comic punch that The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold climate do - but it is often very funny, and best of all reunites us with some of those beloved characters from her other books. Fanny is now middleaged, the mother of four boys, two grown up, and causing their parents to despair, and two still at Eton, who during the course of this novel run away and have a few adventures, causing a few more anxieties. When Alfred is ma ...more
Nick Imrie
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
I've been trying to figure out why this book is so disappointing, compared to the first two novels featuring (some of) these characters and I've decided on the reason:

Mitford sincerely loved the people she depicted in the first two novels. She loved the bright young things, she loved the inter-war generation, she loved the landed gentry. So her hilarious exposure of their ridiculous behaviour was always tempered by a fondness for them. You laugh and you cry.

But she has no
...more
KOMET
Of the 3 Nancy Mitford novels I’ve read thus far, this one was a little less satisfying. Fanny Wincham’s life gets into the fast lane when her beloved husband Alfred, an Oxford professor of theology, is appointed the British Ambassador in Paris. The wife of the previous Ambassador (Lady Leone) is none too pleased at having to vacate the kind of life to which she had become accustomed and enjoyed for the previous 5 years. She stages a sit/lay-in at the official residence, where her numerous frien ...more
Tig
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Always a safe bet.

It's not Mitford's best novel, as I'm sure most readers would agree. It shows an older generation facing the cataclysmic changes of the sixties: rejection of traditional values, adulation of pop stars, spurious annexing of eastern philosophies, runaway children, the beginnings of the classless society. While I give credit to Mitford for attempting it, it makes for a much less happy mix than her previous novels. But just as sometimes we forgive people a lot because o
...more
Briar Rose
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: humour, audiobooks
Don't Tell Alfred is the third book in Nancy Mitford's series that began with The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Written 15 years after the first two books, it is quite a different book. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate dealt with the 'bright young things' of the inter-war years of the 20s and 30s, satirising high society manners and concerned with the loves and foibles of upper class English families. Fanny was very much a secondary character; a narrator somewhat removed from the action. Don't Te ...more
Nikki Plummer
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
Not the best in the trilogy, but still some genuinely funny moments - my favourite was Uncle Matthew showing up in the taxi. I feel like this quote from Caroline O'Donoghue really nails what's wrong with it though:
My favourite terrible thing about Nancy is that she has no idea how straight, non-insane men act. She doesn't know any, or if she does, she just ignores him until she can find the nearest sister or gay man to talk to. If you’ve read her books you’ll know that the protagonist Fanny gets ma/>
My
...more
Shawn Thrasher
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Mostly disappointed. The sense of sharp melancholy and bitter humor that infected The Pursuit of Love and Love In A Cold ClimatDon't Tell Alfred. The first two, written 15 plus years before, were fierce, biting almost comedies of manners, hilarious and humorous then unexpectedly lachrymose. Don't Tell Alfred has a definitely feel of farce, much more episodic. The setting (France in the 1960s,) seems more specific than the settings of the first two (English society in the early part of the 20th century) and even thou ...more
Jamie Collins
This novel takes place about 15 years after the events of Love in a Cold Climate. Fanny is a middle-aged mother of four grown children, slightly bored by her life as the wife of an Oxford don, when her husband is suddenly appointed ambassador to France. Wacky antics ensue when she and her newly knighted husband Alfred move into the embassy in Paris.

I don’t doubt that Mitford’s contemporaries found this book entertaining, but I didn’t like it nearly as well as the first two books in this loos
...more
Sophie
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To have Fanny at the center, rather than as the narrator, was fantastic! Poor Fanny, dealing with scandal after scandal, and the misadventures of her children - yet it was very entertaining for me!

One note, This book should be read after Pursuit of Love, Love In A Cold Climate, and The Blessing, because Mitford expects you to know a lot of characters and their/their family's histories. I can imagine that there would be confusion if the reader hadn't read the previous books first.
Patricia
Jun 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: britain, laughoutloud
Fanny's wrestlings with the former ambassador's wife, who digs in, passively-aggressive occupying a wing of the residence, and with her errant sons, especially the Zen-quoting David who indefinitely occupies the more elegant of the spare rooms, were very, very funny.
Steve
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Don't Tell Alfred is so uncelebrated that I didn't hope for much more from it than an opportunity to check in on the Montdore circle, and enjoy a final, valedictory adventure with them.

Certainly it's the weakest novel of the series, and the humour doesn't pop as it does in Love in a Cold Climate, but I think it has value in its own right, pursuing a new direction from its two predecessors. In fact, just as The Pursuit of Love and LIACC are very different novels, DTA also has its own
...more
Lisa Mason
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This time Fanny has a well deserved adventure in Paris. The Bolter has married again and Baz has teamed up with Grandad to lead the British holiday makers astray. Delightful dialogue and diabolical parenting all gift wrapped in a whirl of Dior, heritage wallpapers and political incompetence.
Vivienne
Although I loved both of Nancy Mitford's earlier novels in this loose autobiographical trilogy (In Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate), I feel that this was my favourite of the three. It may be due to her narrator, Fanny, who had been very much on the sidelines in the other two novels finally taking central stage.

Also, the novel is set in the late 1950s, which I had experienced as a child, and so the society and some of the cultural references were more relevant to me than those in the 1920s-30s.

There(In
...more
Shannon Vincent Nelson
Don't Tell Alfred follows the middle aged Fanny in Paris following her husband's appointment as the British ambassador to France.

The book doesn't retain some of the charm of Mitford's other novels, mainly because it revolves around life in Paris. While her other novels details the habits and eccentricities of the upper classes in England, this novel focuses on Fanny's life in Paris as the wife of an ambassador.

Like all of Mitford's novels, she does an excellent job of con
...more
Janet
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first two books in this wonderful series were written in the 1940s and the third in 1951. This last story of the Radlett family was written in 1960. Apparently, unlike the others, this was not well received by the critics though readers disagreed. Unfortunately Nancy was discouraged by the bad reviews and never wrote another novel. How very sad because she may have had more stories to write about the Radletts (loosely based on her own eccentrically delightful family) and the critics deprived ...more
Lauren
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Blah. This book – the final part of Nancy Mitford’s trilogy centering on narrator Fanny and her assorted friends and relatives – is not good. And by not good, I mean low-budget ’90s sequel not good. I could list why this book fails (I have a list of five primary reasons – and yes, I did actually take notes on why this book didn’t work), but it mostly makes me sad. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are good, well-crafted stories. Don’t Tell Alfred hints at the sparkle and intelligence Ms. Mitford dis ...more
Denis
Sep 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nancy Mitford is quintessential British literature - and this book, even if it's not on the level of the wonderful The Pursuit of Love, and its sequel Love In a Cold Climate (from which it borrows some essential characters), is a delightful read. The tale of a the new ambassador of Great Britain and his wife in wicked Paris is very witty, very funny, written with style, glamourous yet amusingly cruel, and quite right on the target - Mitford's sharp views on the French or on her fellow countrymen ...more
Sian
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't enjoy this quite as much as The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, although many of the characters are still the same this seems a lot more farcical, particularly with the exploits of the various offspring and 'Grandad' etc. However I did enjoy the background discussions around the "Europe" question, especially with what's going on today. And while the grown up children were all terribly annoying, I did think they were an interesting way of showing how the old class system was ...more
Jenn Estepp
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
after reading and loving "the pursuit of love" and "love in a cold climate" i was heartily warned *not* to read this one, because it just doesn't hold up to those. so i didn't, until a whim hit fairly recently. and i was delighted by how much i enjoyed it. perhaps enough time has passed since i read those other two that the characters here don't quite seem like the same people and it's possible to enjoy the novel in and of itself and not as "the continued adventures of ..." it's very enjoyable a ...more
Eileen
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: virago, britlit
I liked this a little better than the other Nancy Mitford I've read. The humor is mostly good, and is substantially less reliant on family/social in-jokes as far as I can tell. The entire story is clearly less autobiographical. Still, the main characters are drawn directly from those autobio/fiction works, and it's not a far stretch to put Mitford in the narrator's seat. The ending was less than satisfying as well. Really, none of her endings have been anything but sudden and odd so far. I'd put ...more
E M
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm demonstrably too old to contribute to Goodreads, and here's part of the demonstration: Nancy Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred is terribly funny novel which pokes insightful fun at politics, parenting and the early manifestations of phenomena like Beatlemania. True, it's better if you've read Mitford's semi-autobiographical The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate and if you've experienced the late 50's, but Don't Tell Alfred is a stand-alone comedy of manners which transcends its own time. Plus ça change ...
Unres
...more
Susan
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am an admitted "Mitfordophile", perhaps due to having an extremely unique family. I have always loved the aplomb with which her characters navigate through life and Don't Tell Alfred includes some of her most amusing eccentrics. Set in Paris post WWII, Fanny dominates the plot line with Uncle Davey and Uncle Matthew making memorable appearances.(you will remember them from both The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate).

While not the strongest in the trilogy, I have to admit that I loved
...more
Ellie
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is set entirely in the 1960's and mainly in the French embassy. Its a brilliantly funny story, although it is a set in a world that is changing very rapidly, and you get the feel of that coming through in the book.

Has some very funny scenes that still make me laugh out loud everytime I read them.
Nooilforpacifists
Eh. Interesting, maybe. But somewhere in the 30 or so year gap between the last "autobiographical novel" (one character clearly is a stand-in for Nancy's own Polish lover) the author had her sense of humor gland replaced by a more than a bit nasty irony gland. Oh, and she hates America too (doubtlessly because of her Communist -- and funeral-home exposing -- sister, who moved to California).
Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
Fanny's life is being turned upside down. She has spent a quiet life in Oxford with her husband, raising her boys. They are now gone from home, two out of school and two at Eton. What is Fanny to do? Settle into middle age and just wait for death? Sounds fine to her. Then she receives a shocking blow, her husband has been named Ambassador to France, making her Ambassadress. They are to uproot their lives and start hosting cocktail parties and dealing with foreign crises in a large mansion in Fra ...more
Jane Hoppe
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
To quote the Chicago Sunday Tribune, Nancy Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred is "a wickedly clever novel, ... hilariously funny ..." Mitford daringly and deftly juggles foibles of the English, French, Americans, and teenagers in the context of international diplomacy and family dynamics. Written from the point of view of Fanny, Alfred's wife, the novel recounts ridiculous scenarios during Alfred's first year as English ambassador to France in mid-twentieth century Paris. These scenarios are laugh-out- ...more
Soozee
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I expected this book to feel dated and out of touch, but it was incredibly funny and charming. Fanny, formerly the wife of an Oxford Don, finds her husband has been made Ambassador and they move to the Embassy in Paris. She steps up to the plate marvellously, but has an array of trials, from the previous incumbent being unwilling to depart, to the various eccentricities of her children, who clearly are totally self-centred and have more money than sense.

She accepts a distant relative
...more
Snorki
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
The last of the Mitford novels. Probably not the best but still entertaining. Fanny is middle aged and her husband has been sent to Paris as the British Ambassador. The novel is full of the usual crazy characters, with lots of poking fun at all nations - French, British, Americans and Russians all come in for the satirical treatment. And Fanny has to worry about her almost-grown up sons, who are being terribly modern and being seduced by Zen, setting up dodgy businesses and leaving school to act ...more
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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 t ...more

Other books in the series

Radlett and Montdore (3 books)
  • The Pursuit of Love (Radlett & Montdore, #1)
  • Love in a Cold Climate (Radlett & Montdore, #2)
“What can’t be cured must be endured.” 2 likes
“Undeniable; Jennifer was one of those women whose meaning, if they have one, is only apparent to husband and children,” 0 likes
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