Is ‘The Pursuit of Love’ Based on a Real Story?

The Pursuit of Love is a period piece that has plenty of TV fans talking. The Amazon Prime streaming series combines elements of comedy, drama, and romance to create a pre-World War II drama that has lots of contemporary themes present. Many fans of the limited series may be wondering if it’s based on a true story. The answer to that isn’t as simple as you might think. 

What is ‘Pursuit of Love’ about? 

According to IMDb, the series is directed by actor Emily Mortimer, who stars in the show as well. Headlining the series are Lily James and Emily Beecham. The show is set post-World War I and pre-World War II in Europe. James and Beecham play a pair of cousins/best friends who are desperate to find and marry Mr. Right. 

Linda (James) decides to pursue a non-conventional wild existence while Fanny (Beecham) settles for a stable home life. The series centers on the choices the two make set against the backdrop of a much different society than the one we know today. It questions social customs as well as prevailing notions about sex and love. 

The show operates as a character study, offering sociopolitical commentary on a number of complicated issues related to love and relationships. 

‘The Pursuit of Love’ is based on a book

Town & Country reports the show is based on a book by Nancy Mitford. It’s been adapted often throughout the years, with this being the third adaptation of the novel.

Mortimer was first exposed to the book in the 1970s. While she’s better known as an actor, she’s made a few forays into directing (including the well-reviewed show Doll & Em), including with this effort. While Mortimer used the book as a guide, she wanted to focus more on its satire and less on the family of the author that inspired the book: 

“In England, there’s a lot of noise and associations with the Mitfords,…I feel that the book anyway transcends all that; it stands on its own. It is itself a satire and comment on the 20th century and culture between the wars.”

It’s a three-part series that keeps most aspects of the original novel intact. Mortimer decided to embrace the novel’s themes in adapting it for Amazon Prime, discarding some elements of the story behind the book. That’s probably a good thing, as there are some disturbing threads behind the novel’s origins. 

Is ‘Pursuit of Love’ based on a true story? 

Emily Beecham as Fanny and Lily James as Linda, holding hands, in 'The Pursuit of Love'
Description: Pictured (L-R): Emily Beecham (Fanny Logan), Lily James (Linda Radlett) | Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

While the show is based on a book, the book itself is a semi-autobiographical work based in part on her own family. Names are changed and Mitford greatly sanitizes some of her family’s history. 

For example, the girl’s father (in both real life and the novel) was named Lord Redesdale. He was a staunchly pro-Nazi figure that sympathized with the Third Reich. In the book and show, his stand-in is the family’s Uncle Matthew (portrayed by The Wire veteran Dominic West). Redesdale is depicted as a merely odd man. His wife, Lady Resedale, who was pro-Hitler in real life, is captured in the book as their Aunt Sadie. Her unfortunate, real-life leanings are glossed over. 

The Mitford family is given quite a pass in the books, but it is a work of fiction that uses them simply as a basis for made-up characters. There’s no question the family’s history is problematic. It raises an interesting question: can an adaptation, far removed from original work, maintain the original piece’s intended social commentary and satire while overlooking the troublesome history of the book’s real-life subjects? 

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