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Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford [Hardcover]

Peter Y. Sussman
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
Price: 21.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 Nov 2006
Over her 78 years, Decca's letters are the most tangible tracks left of a remarkable life - from her childhood as the daughter of a British peer (Lord Redesdale) to her scandalous elopement to the Spanish Civil War with her cousin Esmond Romilly, to her life in the United States, where she married a radical lawyer, Robert Treuhaft in San Francisco. The Mitford girls (five sisters) included Diana (who married the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley), Unity (who was close to Adolf Hitler) and Debo (who became the Duchess of Devonshire). Decca shocked them all when she joined the American Communist Party. Her letters are the stories of a century: gossip and politics, war and mores, the wonders of rapid technological change, the poignancy of personal struggles. They are also a record of her never-ending quest for social justice. Her letters were also a rehearsal for her published works (which included her memoir, HONS AND REBELS and her investigative masterpiece, THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH), which refined the first observations she threw into her letters. This is a fascinating collection that reveals to us intimately the most ebullient Mitford of them all.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (6 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297607456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297607458
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 17 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 566,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Jessica Mitford has been my heroine since I was 14 years old... Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford gives, as letters usually do, a much fuller picture of the writer than either of her own autobiographies, and I finished reading feeling even fonder and more admiring of her than before... Decca's letters sing with the qualities that first made her so attractive to me. Incurably and instinctively rebellious, brave, adventurous, funny and irreverent...

Peter Sussman has done a masterly job of editing these letters.. His footnotes are exemplary, illuminating at least one relationship that had eluded me though 27 years of reading about the Mitfords.'

"Having read my way through it, I'm already wishing there was a second volume. Peter Y Sussman is a sublime editor of one of the funniest, most enthralling and gloriously honest collections of contemporary letters I have yet read.... Here is a book to be savoured and revisited impure and undiluted pleasure, from start to finish." (MIRANDA SEYMOUR SUNDAY TIMES )

"Of the myriad fascinating and unexpected things that Decca's letters reveal, it is her recovery from childhood resentment that moves me most." (THE TIMES )

'Edited by Peter Y. Sussman, Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford (Knopf) captures history's most charming muckraker, from her friendships with Katharine Graham and Maya Angelou to her devotion to civil rights, which led to a subpoena to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee-an experience she later listed under Honors, Awards, and Prizes on her resume.' (Vogue )

"this book, a labour of love and admiration, is... a great treat and a deserved treat." (SPECTATOR )

"These letters are a treat; not so much a collection of of correspondence as an extended conversation on which the reader is invited to eavesdrop... as an example of what a woman can do once she has rid herself of, or at least decided to ignore, the expectations of others - family, men, society - Jessica Mitford will always take some beating." (ANNE CHISHOLM OBSERVER )

"Sussman guides the reader through long footnotes... He was an old friend, and his is a labour of love. Jessica Mitford inspired devotion." (VICTORIA GLENDINNING THE DAILY TELEGRAPH )

"wonderfully interesting... Decca possesses all the characteristics of a great letter-writeer; she is honest, she is gossipy, she has a good ear, she gets out and about and she keeps bumping into famous people, among them Hilary Clinton, Guy Burgess, Liberace and Martin Luther King." (CRAIG BROWN THE MAIL ON SUNDAY )

"a funny, enthralling and gloriously honest collection." (THE SUNDAY TIMES - YOU REALLY MUST READ )

"Having heard one fifteen minute excerpt, from what is a much longer book, I know I simply have to own it." (SCOTT PACK THE FRIDAY PROJECT.CO.UK )

'For sheer pleasure-just to sample the breadth of an extraordinary existence-the book of the season has got to be Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford, edited by Peter Y. Sussman.' (The New York Observer )

"The letters are a treasure" (NEW YORK TIMES )

"A reader of Decca, her newly collected letters, can only marvel" (THE NEW YORKER )

"This is a superb collection of letters, and editor Peter Y Sussman deserves the greatest possible praise and gratitude. His introduction, connecting essays and extensive notes supply all the biographical and historical information a reader needs. Being witty as well as scholarly, he is precisely the right guide through life in the letters of the most astonishing Mitford girls." (MICHAEL DIRDA WASHINGTON POST )

"revealing and witty collection..." (ROBERT GWYN PALMER THE RESIDENT )

Book Description

/The enthralling letters by the most idiosyncratic, witty and irrepressible sisters of one of the most notorious families of the 20th century: Decca (Jessica) Mitford. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decca; The Letters of Jessica Mitford. 17 April 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jessica, known in the family as Decca, was the fifth daughter of Lord and Lady Redesdale and one of the Mitford sisters whose lives have become the stuff of legend.From an early age she rebelled against her life of privilege and at a young age eloped with her cousin Esmond Romilly to join the republican faction then fighting in the Spanish Civil War.The couple eventually moved to America where they lived a hand to mouth existence rather shamelessly using privileged contacts there to get by.At the outbreak of WW2, Esmond joined the Canadian Air Force but was lost during an aircraft sortie.Decca eventually moved to California where she met and married a left wing lawyer Bob Treuhaft by whom she had three children in addition to her surviving daughter from her first marriage.The couple were both members of the Communist Party but eventually left.

The letters in this book cover her very early years up to her death and show her to have been a fearless campaigner for left wing causes often overcoming her targets through her corruscating wit as much as through the courts of law.She proved herself to be an investigative journalist of some genius, her most famous book being 'The American Way of Death' by which she almost single handedly detroyed the cant surrounding the American funeral industry.

This is a long book but a total page turner and even when writing about people and subjects unknown to me kept me enthralled.However, I found the letters she exchanged with her sisters the more interesting reflecting her ambivalent attitude towards her English family.

These are wonderful letters from a woman who faced life without fear and I found the ones she wrote when she knew she was dying particularly moving.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable 15 Jan 2008
Any book containing letters written by any of the Mitford family are well worth reading and this one, skilfully edited by Peter Y. Sussman is no exception.

Most of the Mitford sisters (with the exception of the Duchess of Devonshire) had very strong views - and often ones which were diametrically opposed to their siblings - which led (in Mitford-speak) to talkers and non-talkers, speakers and non-speakers between the family.

Decca - Jessica Mitford - certainly possessed the most intractable views, especially on those whom she referred to as `Negroes' - one incredible reference was made by her in respect of the OJ Simpson murder trial, in which she felt that he was guilty of the charge but welcomed the verdict, saying, `serves the cops right'.

But irrespective of what anybody feels about her politics, these letters are terrifically well-written and (for the most part) enormously funny. Because so many family members and friends are referred to by often obscure nicknames, Mr. Sussman has thoughtfully directed the reader's attention to the real identity of the recipient of the letters, which is very helpful - so many editors of letters, don't.

A thoroughly enjoyable book and well recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Wonderful 29 Nov 2007
I bought this book on the basis of the comments on the cover, during a browse through the '3 for 2' offers in Waterstones. I'd heard of the Mitford sisters of course, and assumed they all leant very firmly to the right. I certainly wasn't aware of Jessica (Decca), who was a member of the communist party for a number of years.

This collection of Decca's letters is an absolute delight, starting from her young days and her elopement with Esmond Romilly, right through to her death in 1996. The overall feeling you get is that she was a tremendous character, full of fun, who delighted in gossip with her friends and family. The book is over 700 pages, but don't let that put you off. It's great bed-time reading as you can read as many or as few of the letters as you like. I have already added her book 'Hons and Rebels' to my Christmas list. My favourite book this year.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful and insightful read for fans. 28 Nov 2010
By Hayley
A delightful read for such a complex character such as Jessica Mitford it gives a great insight into her loves, life and family with in depth looks at her political and personal preferences and beliefs all through her skilful letter writing, I do from a modern perspective find all the Mitford Girls fascinating people with their intriguing history, I very much enjoy reading the book very well put together by the author with great thought and duplicity on the subject matter.
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By nigeyb
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Like many, I am fascinated by the Mitford sisters. Books-wise, so far, I have only read "Hons and Rebels" by Jessica Mitford. Having read "Hons and Rebels" I was interested to find out more about her. Perhaps a 700 page plus book of her letters, and that covers her entire life, was a bit too ambitious. I cannot pretend to have read every letter contained in the book however I managed to read plenty, and I came away from the book even more impressed by Jessica (aka Decca) than I had expected.

Despite far more than her fair share of tragedy and upheaval, what emerges is a woman who faced life with courage, humour, conviction and honesty. From a very early age she rebelled against her aristocratic background, running away to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and then America, where she married radical lawyer, Robert Treuhaft, having joined the Communist Party during the McCarthy era, which also signalled decades of civil rights activism.

The letters in this book cover her very early years up to her death. I was most interested in the letters she exchanged with her mother and sisters, and realised as I worked through this book that I might have been better off reading a biography about the family. Indeed I think this book would be most suitable for someone who has already got a good understanding of Jessica's own story and that of her family. That said, Peter Y. Sussman who edited this book, provides a helpful introduction to each section, in addition to numerous useful explanatory footnotes - it must have taken him ages!

This book contains many wonderful letters which are well worth reading if you are interested in Jessica Mitford, and it is probably most suitable for readers who have already read her other works and want to dig deeper.
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