Wednesday, the 2nd of February, and time for Shelf Control once again, the first one this month! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today, my pick is a biography, but one perhaps with a difference because of the person that wrote it–Frederick the Great (1970) by Nancy Mitford. Nancy Mitford, one of the four Mitford sisters, enjoyed a privileged childhood, with a private education. In 1931, she published her first novel, Highland Fling, and went on to publish 7 more novels, witty, somewhat humorous and based around the upper classes to which she herself belonged. Besides her novels, she also wrote 4 biographies using her gift for vivid characterization.

Frederick the Great is one of these. Frederick II of Prussia loved the flute, devoted hours of study to the arts and French literature and formed a long friendship with Voltaire. While he was a military genius who expanded the boundaries of is kingdom, he also promoted religious tolerance, economic reform and laid the foundation for a United Germany, going on to become one of the greatest rulers in history.

I have only some little idea of Frederick II and his rule (1740-1772), and this book will be a great way to learn more about him. Of course, while Frederick does seem to be an interesting person, and I want to know more about him, what makes me want to pick up this specific bio is that it’s been written by Nancy Mitford. I’ve read a fair few of her novels and enjoyed them a lot, and it would be fun to see how she approaches biographies. I’d bought a paperback of this one sometime last year. I’m looking forward to picking this one up soon, though I might end up reading another of her bios, Madame de Pompadour sooner since having been published in 1954, it’s in books I plan to read for Simon and Karen‘s 1954 Club.

Have you read this one or any of Nancy Mitford’s other bios? Which one/s and how did you like it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Book description from the blurb behind my copy (Vintage Classics 2011); and image from Goodreads as always; author info from Wikipedia

Lisa’s pick this week is Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, a fantasy with necromancers and swordswomen


12 thoughts on “Shelf Control #171: Frederick the Great by Nancy Mitford

  1. Hi Mallika: Freddy was indeed an interesting guy but definitely had a dark side, strengthened by his terrible upbringing (as a young man, he was forced to witness the execution of his friend & possible lover and was almost executed himself by his father). I can imagine that Mitford took this material and ran with it. I’ll be very interested to read your review next spring!
    I’ve read a couple of Mitford’s novels (Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate) and enjoyed them very much. As you say, she’s a witty & very entertaining writer. I haven’t read any of her biographies, although I’ve had Madame de Pompadour sitting on my shelf for ages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve enjoyed her novels as well; Ive read Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate; also The Blessing, Highland Fling and Christmas Pudding.

      I have read that his father was rather cruel, but not the details, but forcing him to witness his friend/lover’s execution is a whole other level. I can’t even imagine what that would have done to him.

      I have Madame de Pompadour too, and am looking forward to reading it for the 1954Club.

      Liked by 1 person

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