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Nancy, after a five-year semi-engagement to a homosexual, in married Peter Rodd "Prod" , whom she described as "the most boring man in the world", and the marriage, during which she had an ectopic pregnancy and a hysterectomy, was a failure. It was therefore perhaps inevitable that when she met Gaston Palewski for the first time at the Allies Club in London, in the summer of , she should fall passionately in love with him despite his ugliness and his reputation for being a serial philanderer.

He was clever and cultivated, and after a stint in North Africa with Marshal Lyautey, began his political career as General de Gaulle's chef de cabinet in London. After the war he continued up the ladder to prestigious posts in Paris, to which Nancy had moved to be near him, eventually becoming ambassador to Italy from and president of the Conseil Constitutionnel from This is novel territory for English readers. Hilton believes that, for Nancy and Gaston, their relationship became "the most significant personal and emotional attachment of their lives". While this was undoubtedly true for her, it was surely less so for him, as he was reluctant to marry her, though he remained devoted for 30 years.

Gaston's marriage in to Violette de Pourtales - another of his many mistresses and the mother of his son - came as a bitter blow to Nancy, who by this time had finally divorced Prod, but one she managed to accept.

The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London

There is some comfort in the fact that Gaston visited her only hours before her death in , after four years of intense agony from cancer, and irony in that his marriage turned out to be unhappy for his remaining 11 years. Hilton is at pains to distance herself from Nancy's previous biographers who viewed her as the victim of a hopeless passion; and while some readers may find it hard to accept Hilton's revisionist conclusion that the "discipline, tenderness and gentilesse of their relationship exposes the limitations of many modern sexual mores", women of a generation closer to Nancy's will understand.

The book is comparatively free from errors but is written in a remorselessly pedestrian style. While one may laugh at the occasional joke such as Peter Rodd being "a fly in her Guerlain cold cream", what is one to make of Hilton's description of "Oswald Mosley [as] sexual Marmite - strong, unsophisticated, something one either craves or hates"?

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Despite Hilton's caveat that her protagonists were "middle-aged, not particularly attractive people", she has produced a well-paced and informative book, in particular by devoting at least half of it to Palewski. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Please wait Future London. Progress The Londoner.

The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London

The Reader. Matthew d'Ancona. Ayesha Hazarika. They met at the Allies Club in Park Lane and that was that. He was an experienced seducer and she, after a life of frustrations, was longing to be switched on. In the Mitfordian pantheon, Gaston is presented as a bit of a joke and Nancy as rather duped by him. For the first time Hilton emphasises the positive aspects of the relationship and he emerges as a major figure. He was born in Paris in into a family of Polish Jews.

His father was an engineer and during the First World War Gaston was sent to Brighton College and had an exchange period at Oxford while at the Sorbonne. Ayesha Hazarika.

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