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 friends pay her homage for several weeks. In desperation, Fanny enlists the help of a family relation, who devises an ingenious way of inducing Lady Leone to take her leave of France in a face-saving, dignified way.
There are other colorful characters in this novel (2 of whom, Charles-Edouard de Valhubert and his English wife Grace, we last saw occupy center stage in “The Blessing”) who provide its rich and comedic flavor. I think the reader will be entertained reading about the antics and idiosyncrasies of Fanny’s social secretary Northey, and 2 of her sons, Basil and David. And there is also her Uncle Matthew, a very entertaining eccentric. Notwithstanding all that, I didn’t enjoy reading “Don’t Tell Alfred” as much as I did “The Blessing.” This review is not to suggest that the former is not a good book. I’m glad I read it and feel that, perhaps, upon a second reading, I may upgrade my present appraisal.