Book Review: Darling by India Knight

A razor-sharp, laugh-out-loud novel that re-imagines the cast of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love.
Marooned in a sprawling farmhouse in Norfolk, teenage Linda Radlett feels herself destined for greater things. She longs for love, but how will she ever find it? She can’t even get a signal on her mobile phone. Linda’s strict, former rock star father terrifies any potential suitors away, while her bohemian mother, wafting around in silver jewellery, answers Linda’s urgent questions about love with upsettingly vivid allusions to animal husbandry.
Eventually Linda does find her way out from the bosom of her deeply eccentric extended family, and she escapes to London. She knows she doesn’t want to marry ‘a man who looks like a pudding’, as her good and dull sister Louisa has done, and marries the flashy, handsome son of a UKIP peer instead. 
But this is only the beginning of Linda’s pursuit of love, a journey that will be wilder, more surprising and more complicated than she could ever have imagined.”

OK – so I need to hold my hands up first and say I’ve never read ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford – so whilst this is a retelling – it was a brand new story / set of characters for me – but as a fan of India Knight’s writing I requested an ARC from NetGalley.

The book is narrated by Frances, a cousin of the Radlett siblings, who has been sent to live with her Aunt Sadie and Uncle Matthew by her flaky mother. Matthew is a retired rockstar, Sadie is his earth mother wife – and they home school their children – and Franny.

The characters are all brilliantly written – with Uncle Matthew my favourite, with some amazing one liners – and lists of things he hates. I’ve just re read one of the lists now – and have laughed out loud as I type (in a coffee shop in Worcester whilst waiting to collect my kids from private school, and ironically one of the things on this list is ‘overconfident public schoolgirls with loud voices’) Another favourite is ‘wellness, (why should I take advice from posh girls with eating disorders?’ But I will stop listing them now, as you really need to read them in their wonderfully written rant mode to fully appreciate them!!

The book starts with the kids growing up in rural Norfolk – with the occasional trip to Cromer for the children’s excitement. Their homeschooling means they know incredibly random things – but not your standard three Rs. They also have their own codes, words, abbreviations – which as a mother of 4, and with our own family ‘things’, I totally understand.

The book then follows all of the family – but primarily Linda on her pursuit of love, taking in London and Paris as well as Norfolk. Each of the locations is written about and described really well and you feel like you’re there.

There is an eclectic supporting cast who are excellently described – Davey and his gut health being very informative!

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book – it was clever, witty, funny and an escapist read. I just can’t comment on how it is as a retelling!

It’s out later in October 2022. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.