In the third and final episode of The Pursuit of Love, events take a sudden and tragic turn (spoiler alert!); just when everything seems to be going well, the subject of the story – Lily James’s Linda Radlett – dies in childbirth. It’s an abrupt ending, even more so because her death takes place off-screen.
Our narrator Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham) returns sombrely from hospital, bringing both her newborn and Linda’s newborn back to Alconleigh. And then that’s that, really. The story wraps up with Fanny and Alfred adopting Linda’s son. Lord Merlin (Andrew Scott) mopes in the distance, and then quietly adopts (or rather, is adopted by) Linda’s French Bulldog.
But if you’ve not read the original Nancy Mitford novel, you may be wondering how the ending of the BBC series compares to the ending of the book. If so – we’ll tell you!
Does Linda die in the novel?
Yep! Emily Mortimer’s adaptation actually follows the novel pretty closely.
At this point, both Linda and Fanny are living at Alconleigh (Linda having reluctantly returned to the family home after her London house was bombed in the Blitz). They are heavily pregnant, and it is quite a happy time. On fine days, they sit outside with Linda’s dog Plon-plon, ask each other for the time, and wait for nature to take its course. Linda instructs Fanny to take care of her dog if she dies – “but she spoke idly, as one who knows, in fact, that she will live for ever.”
In the novel (as in the TV series), Linda and Fanny give birth to their sons on the same day: 28th May. Linda dies in childbirth, which is a danger she was warned about by doctors after her first pregnancy with Moira. Her death is reported matter-of-factly and swiftly, in a single paragraph, on the penultimate page of the novel.
The impact is severe. For Davey and Lord Merlin and the rest at Alconleigh, “a light went out, a great deal of joy that never could be replaced.” Around the same time, Fabrice de Sauvaterre – the French Duke who Linda considered the love of her life – is killed by the Gestapo, and becomes a hero of the Resistance.
Fanny and her husband Alfred adopt Linda’s orphaned child, naming him Fabrice after his late father. Some of the final words from the TV drama are a direct quote from the novel: “I have adopted the little Fabrice, with the consent of Christian, his legal father. He has black eyes, the same shape as Linda’s blue ones, and is a most beautiful and enchanting child. I love him quite as much as, and perhaps more than, I do my own.”
In the novel, there is no mention of what happened to the French Bulldog, Plon-plon. So it is a nice touch in the TV show that the dog slips away from Fanny’s care, and chooses a new owner of his own: Lord Merlin.
Is the final scene the same?
The conversation in the garden, right at the end of the final episode, is also based on the final few paragraphs of the novel – though with a bit of embellishment.
As Mitford writes it, The Bolter went to see Fanny in the nursing home where she’d given birth (and where Linda had died). The Bolter talks about “women like Linda and me,” though Fanny protests: “But I think she would have been happy with Fabrice. He was the great love of her life, you know.”
And The Bolter gets the last line of the novel: “‘Oh, dulling,’ said my mother, sadly. ‘One always thinks that. Every, every time.'”
It’s a scene that’s recreated in the TV drama, but Emily Mortimer has added in a little speech for Aunt Emily (Annabel Mullion) beforehand as she watches Fanny’s little boys play in the garden. “Let’s hope that in years to come, these boys’ granddaughters can be more than just a Bolter or a Sticker, or a Linda or a Fanny, and decide who they are, irrespective of who they marry.”
And then comes The Bolter’s line, and the drama ends on laughter.
Will there be a season 2 of The Pursuit of Love?
That’s certainly it for Lily James’s character Linda Radlett, what with Linda being dead. However, Fanny lives to tell another story – and that’s what she does, in the follow-up novels Love in a Cold Climate (1949) and Don’t Tell Alfred (1960). In the former, Fanny turns her attention to Lady Leopoldina “Polly” Hampton and her family, and tells the reader about a variety of scandalous marriages and love affairs; in the latter, she tells us about her own life.
Asked whether she would be keen on starring in a The Pursuit of Love sequel, Beecham told and other press: “Yes, definitely. Yes,” while James (who is also an executive producer on the show) added: “We’ve got to keep going. You can’t leave Fanny there. It would be a crime.”
Reactions to The Pursuit of Love have been mixed, with some viewers loving it and some hating it – so it remains to be seen whether the BBC would commission a second season.