Zoë Heller's Bookshelf
By Nancy Mitford
My mother gave me this and its sister novel, Love in a Cold Climate, at an airport once. I was 15 at the time—not an age at which you're inclined to put much faith in your mother's recommendations. But by the time I boarded the plane, I was completely sold, and I never looked askance at any of my mother's literary tips again. If you want to get a fair idea of what is meant by the phrase English humor, Mitford's largely autobiographical 1930s comedy about the lives and loves of the aristocratic Radlett family is as good a guide as any. It's not profound stuff. But, rather like P.G. Wodehouse, Mitford achieves a kind of greatness by staying unashamedly light.