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on 10 September 2008
If you have read and loved Charlotte Mosley's wonderful Mitford Letters this will definitely not disappoint!!

Their writing styles, and indeed life styles are markedly different - Paddy's erudite, descriptive, precise and exuberant letters serve to remind us why he is often considered the greatest travel writer of our time. His wonderful descriptions of his adventures bring to life so many different places - from Devon to the Andes to Eastern Europe and back to Derbyshire. He tells stories about upsetting Somerset Maugham with his stammering jokes; about his feat of swimming across the Hellespont aged 69; about rounding up wild horses in Chagford; and about his time building his home Kardamyli with his wife Joan.

DD writes a shrewd description of life as a Duchess restoring Chatsworth. She never fails to raise a smile with her insightful and honest accounts of a whirlwind of social engagements with such a wide variety of well-known twentieth century figures. From Evelyn Waugh, whom on one occasion sends the famously self-professed illiterate DD a proof of his new book, The Life of Robert Knox with the inscription "You won't find a word in this to offend your Protestant sympathies" - the pages were in fact completely blank. She describes he friendship with "The Loved One" (John F Kennedy) and dinners with the characterful Bohemian Iris Tree. Intimate encounters with the Royal Family - including one such "cotton dress" chance meeting with The Queen Mother - who Debo famously refers to as 'Cake' - at the Tate Gallery. Interspersed with these engagements she writes to Paddy with stories of her family - Andrew and her three children and certainly her Sisters and of course, she details her incredible renovation of the beautiful Chatsworth House. Despite leading such an incredible life, she always remains so down to earth - on one occasion Mario Testino arrives at Chatsworth to do a photo shoot for Vogue's 90th birthday. DD is photographed with her granddaughter Stella Tennant, she describes the shoot:

" [Stella's] Hair skewbald/piebald, all colours & stuck up in bits. THEN they produced "shoes" with 6 inch heels. More stilts - she could hardly put one foot in front of the other, wobbling & toppling.
We looked just like that Grandville drawing of a giraffe dancing with a little monkey. I was the monkey."

The truly charming thing, however, about this excellently edited collection, is the genuine love and friendship that is so abundant in these letters. Mosley describes DD and PLF as sharing "youthful high spirits, warmth and generosity". This comes across in the letters so wonderfully. This book is a lovely account of two such different characters who share a marvellous appetite for life and an even greater friendship.
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I am steadily working my way through all the volumes of the Mitford letters after having devoured Letters Between Six Sisters last year. Deborah is probably my favourite correspondent of all the Mitfords. Her sense of humour is wonderfully dry and her refusal to be intimidated by her intellectual sisters or her aristocratic peers is a breath of fresh air. Her short, witty epistles make a lovely contrast to the letters of Leigh Fermor who writes elegant, beautiful letters about his travels and acquaintances that are perfectly evocative of time and place. I have never read any Patrick Leigh Fermor, but on the strength of these glimpses into his remarkable life I will be hunting out his travel books and indulging myself further.

There are hundreds of lovely gems in this book but the two that stand out for me are Deborah waxing lyrical about the humble gooseberry and finding a wonderful quotation about them being the 'perfect ambulant fruit', and Leigh Fermor recounting his experience of swimming the Hellespont in his seventies. It really is a wonderful book.
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on 5 August 2009
The amusing surviving Mitford sister recounts her day to day life against Paddy Leigh Fermor' scholarly & sometime military mind. The result is entertainment of the best. Having read the book thro' it then becomes a joy to dip in & out.
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on 6 August 2009
A cheerful correspondence over many years between 2 very different characters. Devonshire, unintellectual countrywoman (hardly ever reads a book)but inheritor of Mitford wit. Leigh Fermor, highly intelligent, manically active, immersed in history and arcane knowledge. Their high society circles of acquaintance largely overlap and they both know most of the Establishment luminaries. Sometimes the "luvvies" gossip is off-putting but they are both such lively, active people that their letters are a joy.
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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2008
I gave a golden glowing review of "Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters," and, using gold-mining metaphors, Charlotte Mosley (married to a 'Mitford' nephew) has tapped the precious Mitford treasure pit again with "In Tearing Haste," a compilation of splendid letters exchanged over many years by her aunt-by-marriage, Deborah (Duchess of) Devonshire (née Mitford), and her fine and faithful friend, the writer and World War II hero, Patrick (Paddy) Leigh Fermor. (The relationship is supposed to have been platonic, but I really don't give a damn if it has been more, as it was and is most clearly a closely intimate and loving one).

I don't know how many people write 'proper' letters these days, and I have no idea how many such people also retain their correspondence, but it is evident that Mrs Mosley has hit pay dirt in a big way with her editing of 'Mitford' family letters, and she does it with panache and knowledgeable and loving skill, for her selections are superb and her notes are almost as entertaining and informative as the letters themselves. The latest work is well up with the earlier.

But no editor can hit pay dirt without the auriferous ore being present, and the letters themselves are pure gold. Those from 'Darling Paddy' are longer, more descriptive and better written, coming as they did from an extraordinarily good writer in his own right, but those from 'Darling Debo' are both lovely and loving - and amazing, too, coming as they did from a lady who claims never to have read a book (I don't believe a word of it!).

The two writers struck chords (I'm changing metaphors now) with each other for fifty-plus years and I doubt that we shall see, hear or be permitted to read the like again. I loved the book and commend it to readers who enjoy having an arm's-length or proxy relationship with such unusual and interesting people who lived (and are still living, thank goodness) through such interesting times in such splendid style.

Buy several copies of this book for Christmas presents, read one yourself, and then share the hundreds of historical and literary nuggets as widely as you can!
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on 25 January 2012
This book is an absolute delight - for those who enjoy revelling in this kind of thing. It goes without saying that in the brave new world of e-mail and instant messaging the talent to express at length personal views or feelings on just about anything will become severely dented. Patrick Leigh Fermor and Deborah Devonshire were the perfect foils for one another, and both in their own style impress one for their sheer ability to make the most of life, with a lot of shared humour rising to the surface.

It would seem at first that PLF was greatly taken by the the spry and comely Duchess but he soon sublimated such affection as he might feel into quite marvellous prose and a deep friendship developped between them. Indeed he became a good friend of her husband Andrew who must have shared with him a certain wanderlust for they made several expeditions together - to the Greek Pindar mountains, the Andes and to the Pyrennees.

Both the Duchess and PLF led privileged lives but any reader of these letters will be surely constrained to concede that they earned and deserved such privileges as they enjoyed. Both were by nature empathetic and caring and perhaps the greatest privilege that life may bestow is the gift of friendship - a multi-faceted sphere of interesting and amusing friends. Neither, in the final analysis, needed the other yet both lives would have been far poorer but for the esteem and support the other gave.

The writing ranges from the heights of Parnassus to the idiosyncratic. There is plenty of banter and humourous exchange right from the early days but as they get older they mock the fate that attends the truly old and their letters become full of references to Dr. Oblivion and Dr. Doze and Admiral Alzheimer. For them, (and many more,) Shakespeare must have written :

".......................Beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all
To envious and calumniating time."

They were no dupes and so this book takes on a rather nostalgic hue, but buy it because the laughter and song outweigh the sadness of it all.
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VINE VOICEon 28 April 2013
Let me start by saying I had read and enjoyed Deborah Devonshire's book "Wait for Me!" and Patrick Leigh Fermor's marvellous travel book "A Time of Gifts" so I was really looking forward to reading this. What a disappointment. The letters, which are spread over a lengthy period, do not represent a real exchange of correspondence as few of them of are in reply to the previous one. I like epistolary books - Helene Hanff's classic "84 Charing Cross Road" is an absolute joy. But this series of letters somehow failed to ignite any enthusiasm in me.

Having tried to analyse my dissatisfaction I think it is down to the fact that many of the letters are accounts of social occasions, names of people and places visited and lack the telling details and gossipy titbits that really enliven such correspondence.

I was also surprised to find that having passed page 100, there is a footnote explaining the Duke of Devonshire's battle with alcoholism, and yet there has been no hint of this in the previous correspondence! Censored perhaps, but it throws into doubt the personal nature of the letters and makes me wonder what else has been omitted? All the really interesting bits presumably. During this period the Devonshires had resurrected Chatsworth and turned it into a tourist attraction but there is nothing about that in this book.

It really is rather tedious and I was terribly disappointed.
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on 24 March 2010
This charming correspondence between old friends is delightful, Paddy Leigh Fermor is a favourite traveller writer of mine and so is Debbie Devonshire quirky outlook on life -I love Lismore and can picture them at this lovely castle. It so so typical of the age they write about.
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on 4 February 2009
In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor
One of the most delightful books I have read in the last few years.
Both authors are intimate friends and have kept up (and are still keeping up!) their friendship by handwritten letters, notes and cards.
The so-called "unbookishness" of the one and the literary mastercraft and inventiveness of the other are pure joy. Captivates till the very last page.

Joost Tengbergen.
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on 1 August 2011
Although I had read "Ill met by Moonlight" by Paddy Leigh Fermor (PLF) many years ago,I only knew snippets about him and was intrigued that he had struck up a correspondence with the Duchess of Devonshire. The letters are a window onto another world but a world that is vaguely familiar. People and events that were read about or viewed on television, now seen from an entirely different perspective.I was astounded by the sheer spread of PLF's interests and contacts. Plus his enthusiasm for life and his energy! A window into a world where you travelled round,staying for days or even weeks with friends. The Duchess's letters are equally fascinating - down to earth - fearless - egalitarian.

I would love to have sat next to either of them at a dinner party! A book to dip into although I read it from cover to cover. Painstakingly researched and annotated. Brilliant. A real gem.
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