I’ve had a crush on the Mitford sisters since last year, from the first time I read Charlotte Mosley’s collection of their letters. Since that time I’ve read most of Nancy’s novels (although I long to read her biography of Madame de Pompadour), and a collection of Diana’s reviews and essays. What a mad bunch.
Basically, they were six sisters of a sort-of-poor-but-rich-by-anyone-else’s-standards aristocratic family, who soon became quite the little socialites, causing trouble from the 1920’s onwards.
Nancy Mitford was the eldest, and she was an horrendous snob who despite having a tragic personal life became a famous novelist, then Diana, who married first Bryan Guinness, then England’s version of Hitler (she and her sister Unity knew Hitler-baby intimately), Pamela, a very eccentric but otherwise normal woman who retired to the country, then Unity, who was a fascist Nazi fanatic, and who also shot herself in the head on the day England declared war on Germany. She didn’t die, but instead rendered herself hugely mentally disabled, and died quite young indeed.
Then came Jessica, who was a communist, and who grew to rather despise her sisters and their fascist ideals, and at 19 she eloped and ran off to America, where she became another famous writer in a sort of investigative journalist way. Last, but not least, came Deborah, who married Andrew Cavendish during WWII, and subsequently became the Duchess of Devonshire and charged with the task of restoring Chatsworth House to it’s former glory.
So all in all a rather extreme family. There is a brother, Tom, in there somewhere along the lines, but he tragically died in WWII.
Anyway, Hons and Rebels is Jessica (also known as Decca) Mitford’s biography. It is said to be largely exaggerated in some parts, and rather glossing over other parts, but hey, isn’t that the nature of a memoir? You obviously write things the way that you remember them. She’s really rather scathing towards her family, if I am to believe what I have been told, but it’s all in a days work, non?
I am looking forward to reading it, because having read more of the work of the sort of upper-class-slash-Nazi-sympathiser sisters, I am interested to hear the opinions of the sister that actually had similar ideals to myself, and chose to work for her living. She sort of embraced the lifestyle of post-war Britain, by which I mean that although she lived in America, she lived in the suburbs, in a regular house without staff, so to speak, rather like anyone else I would know. Not the sort of luxury that one can imagine her sisters were living in.
I reckon it will be a good read. If she’s half as good a writer as her sisters, I’m in for a good time.
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