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Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters [Hardcover]

Charlotte Mosley
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
Price: 20.35 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Sep 2007

The never-before published letters of the legendary Mitford sisters, alive with wit, affection, tragedy and gossip: a charismatic history of the century’s signal events played out in the lives of a controversial and uniquely gifted family.

Spanning the twentieth century, these magically vivid letters between the legendary Mitford sisters constitute not just a superb social and historical chronicle (what other family counted among its friends Hitler and the Queen, Cecil Beaton and President Kennedy, Evelyn Waugh and Givenchy?); they also give an intimate portrait of the stormy but enduring relationship between six beautiful and gifted women who emerged from the same stock, incarnated the same indomitable spirit, yet carved out starkly different roles and identities for themselves.

Nancy, the scalding wit who transferred her family life into bestselling novels; Pamela, who craved nothing more than a quiet country life; Diana, the fascist jailed with her husband, Oswald Mosley, during WWII; Unity, an attempted suicide, obsessed with Hitler; Jessica, the runaway communist and fighter for social change; and Deborah, the genial socialite who found herself Duchess of Devonshire.

Writing to one another to confide, commiserate, tease, rage and gossip, the sisters wrote above all to amuse. A correspondence of this scope is rare, for it to be penned by six such born storytellers makes it unique.

Editor Charlotte Mosley – Diana Mitford's daughter-in-law – has had unrestricted access to the vast archive of family letters and photographs, most of which have never been published before.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (3 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841157902
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841157900
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.4 x 6.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Mosley has done a superb job in allowing these sisters to speak for themselves…the result is a glorious portrait of a six–way, life–enhancing, lifelong conversation.' Sunday Times ‘Memoir of the Year’

'The Mitfords were, of course, unusually funny and unusually verbally dextrous, as well as unusually well connected. But it wasn't all fun and games, and what this book does so well is show the grit beneath the lustre.' The Sunday Times

‘The great treat of all time…the book's editor, Charlotte Mosley, proves the perfect companion (and) she provided an exceptionally lucid exposition, perceptive and well–written, of the extraordinary lives and complex characters of her cast. The letters are brilliantly entertaining, for the most part written with a talent to amuse that amounts almost to comic genius…a profoundly moving experience…a rich addition to our national heritage.’ The Sunday Telegraph

‘A gripping read’. Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph ‘Books of the Year’

‘The editing could not have been better…The great thing about presenting the letters without a biographer’s intervention is that we are allowed’ for the first time, to get a clear view of how the dynamics of this peculiar family worked.’ Guardian

‘A novelist would never get away with inventing this: a correspondence spanning eight decades, written from locations including Chatsworth and Holloway Prison, between six original and talented women who numbered among their friends Evelyn Waugh, Maya Angelou, J. F. Kennedy and Adolf Hitler. The story of the extraordinary Mitford sisters has never been told as well as they tell it themselves.’ J. K. Rowling

'It is thrilling to eavesdrop of the blazing rows and tender reconciliations.' Richard Davenport–Hines, in The Sunday Times ‘Books of the Year’

'”The Mitfords” is a thrilling and moving, funny and serious book. Here is a story of a family, of loyalty, love, humour, tragedy and at times, chilling deception, a tale that sometimes amuses and horrifies, but always fascinates…with the diminishing use of the letter as a means of communication, one wonders if there will ever again be such a luminous correspondence.' Telegraph

'A wonderful portrait. All their sibling rivalries, childishness, cleverness and clear mutual affection bubble through this revealing book.’ Daily Express ‘Books of the Year’

'This luminous correspondence reveals an astonishing and complex story of a family brimming with rivalry and affection.' Juliette Nicholson, in the Evening Standard ‘Books of the Year’

‘Hugely entertaining…This book is funny, sad, outrageous and impeccably edited, and despite its enormous length, it never flags for a moment.' Mail on Sunday. *****

‘Even those new to the family will find the multitudinous strands or narrative clearly laid out and the sisters’ strange ways with words–succinctly decoded…Their humanity is amply illustrated in these, their own enjoyable words.’ Scotsman.

'Charlotte Mosley is an exemplary editor…The style that gives these letters their glitter and appeal also worked defensively: here is life moving fast and funnily; until old age the sisters seldom delve below the sparkling surface, even at moments of tragedy.' Jan Dalley, FT

'Love or loathe the idea of them, there is no denying the vivid immediacy of their polyphonic voices in this remarkable volume, the editing of which by Charlotte Mosley is distinguished by its ideal mixture of tact, efficiency and unobtrusiveness.' The Times

‘Charlotte Mosley's glorious collection – by turns hilarious, moving and shocking – should be read by both detractors and admirers, because these letters are social history, pure and simple.' Waterstones Books Quarterly

‘This is a long book which gets better and better as you proceed, the genius of it being in its gathering momentum…As editor, (Charlotte Mosley's) quiet rigour and fearlessness of skeletons both in and out of cupboards must be saluted…one is aware of having read something not only unique but very moving too…' The Express

'Absorbing, funny and often very moving…a remarkable story of six remarkable personalities. I can’t imagine that such a collection of letters between members of one family will ever emerge again. But then, there was always the stamp of uniqueness on everything these remarkable women set their minds to achieving.' The Spectator

'Charlotte Mosley successfully conveys the nursery atmosphere the sisters inhabited throughout their lives. Linking these individual lives with brief accounts of what was happening to the family at large, she provides the reader with much needed context and lets some fresh air into the claustrophobic, overheated atmosphere.' The Tablet

From the Inside Flap

"A novelist would never get away with inventing this: a correspondance spanning eight decades, written from locations including Chatsworth and Holloway Prison, between six original and talented women who numbered among their friends Evelyn Waugh, Maya Angelou, J.F Kennedy and Adolf Hitler." J.K Rowling

Less inhibited than their memoirs and more intimate than the biographies written about them, this selection of unpublished letters between the six legendary Mitford sisters is alive with wit, hilarity, passion and heartbreak. The letters constitute not just an idiosyncratic social and historical chronicle of the 20th century, they also chart the stormy but enduring relationship between six beautiful and gifted women who incarnated the same indomitable spirit yet carved out starkly different roles and identities for themselves.

Nancy, the scalding wit who transferred her family life into bestselling novels; Pamela, who craved nothing more than a quiet country life; Diana, the fascist jailed with her husband, Oswald Mosley, during the Second World War; Unity, whose obsession with Hitler led to her attempted suicide; Jessica, the runaway communist and fighter for social change; and Deborah, the genial socialite who found herself Duchess of Devonshire.

Writing to one another to confide, commiserate, tease, rage and gossip, the sisters set out, above all, to amuse, and never lost the ability to laugh at themselves. A correspondance of this scope is rare, for it to be penned by six such born storytellers makes it unique.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Blue-bloods 21 Oct 2007
Format:Hardcover
It's hard to imagine that there will ever be another book quite like this one; partly because of the death of letter-writing but mainly because it is hard to conceive of six astonishing characters as the Mitford sisters in one family - one sister a communist, another a duchess, yet another a bestselling novelist, yet another had Hitler as a wedding guest.

At times laugh-out-loud funny, at others incredibly moving; this is a compelling read and the range of the letters mirrors the diversity of the sisters' lives. The dramatis personae alone justifies the admission price - from Elsa Schiaparelli to Stella Tennant; Goebbels to JFK; Evelyn Waugh to Jon Snow; Winston Churchill to Lucian Freud; this book is an alternative history of the 20th Century.

If this book were a novel, it would fly of the shelves: beautiful writing, excellent jokes as well as tragedies dramatic and mundane, shaped into a compelling narrative by a very skilful editor. I can't recommend this highly enough even for those who think they already "know" the Mitford story.
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101 of 109 people found the following review helpful
By Geoffrey Woollard VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters," is a truly wonderful read. I have just finished the 800-plus pages and wish very much that there were 800 more. I'd like to give it 6 stars, but dear old Amazon (whose price is a giveaway 14.95 instead of the RRP of 25.00) only permits one to praise to a point. I willingly go beyond that point and any buyer who is a little hesitant about getting the book for Christmas and/or adding more copies to the order for the rellies that are loved or hated - both types will appreciate it, even if they can't or couldn't stand the Mitford 'girls' - should go ahead right away.

I have read somewhere that Charlotte Mosley (daughter-in-law of Diana Mitford, aka Lady Mosley) had access to some 12,000 personal letters exchanged by the sisters over nearly eighty years and has only chosen to use 5% of them for the book. But what a literal hoard of literary treasure!

Mrs Mosley has selected well and edited superbly, bringing out and explaining with her own notes the deep and long-lasting relationships of the sisters, the context of their times, their humour and their eccentricities, their enthusiasm for words in several languages, their loves and their tragedies and, with the exception of the delightful and redoubtable Deborah, now the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the sadnesses of their passing.

The sisters have been described as "eccentric" and "maddening." Having read and enjoyed every one of their letters as published in this splendid work, I would be inclined to suggest that they were no more eccentric or maddening than the members of many families.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unconventional Mitford Sisters 26 May 2008
By Well Read VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Life would be incredibly boring without unconventional people. The Mitford's were such an interesting family. The sisters, frequently referred to as "notorious," were pre and post war celebrities, collectively carving a niche in English history. Nancy Mitford's witty writing is as readable now as in the past. Of her novels, I'm particularly fond of "The Pusuit of Love," and "Love in a Cold Climate." Nancy adroitly lampooned the aristocracy.

It's the support of fascism by Unity Mitford, who was infatuated with Hitler; and Diana Mitford's marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Fascists, which even now hasn't been forgiven. In the war years, Diana had the title "the most loathed woman in England". Although Mosley was an arrogant man and a womaniser, she loyally remained faithful. Jessica Mitford, also a writer, eloped with her communist lover to the USA. Mostly, Nancy is the one I had previously known more of through her writing.

Of the six, Nancy, Jessica, Deborah and Diana, are the more interesting sisters. Pamela the most obscure. The only sister living is gentle Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. She also writes, and transformed Chatsworth with her husband.

The editor, Charlotte Mosley, provides essential background information to the letters. That makes those more interesting reading. The Mitford girls, gossipy, intimate family letters span the 20th century. Much has been written about the Mitford's over the years. Unlike others, Charlotte Mosley had access to 12,000 family letters. Five percent are included in the book.

What makes the Mitford's so fascinating? They were not the wealthiest aristocratic family. They were, however, well connected to other titled and famous people.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read 3 Jan 2008
Format:Hardcover
Having read and adored a number of Mitford biographies and a number of the books written by the sisters themselves I was truly excited to receive this at Christmas.

I loved every word of this book - Charlotte Mosley's erudite and fair narration and moreover the words of the sisters.

It certainly gives one pause for thought about Hitler, and or course about Diana and Oswald Mosley.

I would recommend this to anyone who has sisters, anyone who has an interest in the history of the 20th century - (if just to see how an inordinate number of different characters from the twenteith century link up from Betjeman to Hitler to Lucian Freud to Cecil Beaton to Churchill) and indeed to anyone interested in understanding human relationships.

My favourite Mitford character without a doubt is the mis-understood Muv - what incredible unfaltering loyalty. A true inspiration.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very pleased. Arrived on time and well packaged. Thank you.
Published 3 days ago by A E Bradley
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
A wonderful, funny, intriguing and sometimes shocking collection of letters between six equally intriguing sisters, spanning almost an entire century.
Published 11 days ago by LaurenS
2.0 out of 5 stars Too hard to read on e-book
The constant need to refer back to the list of nicknames for the people mentioned in the letters makes this virtually impossible to read on my kindle. I'm so disappointed!
Published 10 months ago by Voluptua
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
Disappointed that this seemed rather disjointed but after all it is only a collection of letters. Expected a bit more insight into the lives of the sisters.
Published 11 months ago by J. M. Dennis
5.0 out of 5 stars Mitfords
I am still reading this, it's a real insight into the ideals and ideas of it's time. A history lesson in letter form.
Published 15 months ago by Jane
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful insight into the lives of these well known sisters.
Fascinating. You feel as though you are living the lives of the Mitford sisters. A different time and a different world are completely brought to life in their own words.
Published 15 months ago by Pat R
4.0 out of 5 stars Girl talk
The story of the Mitford family is well known. They live again in this book. Good for fans of other people's letters
Published 16 months ago by J. A. Clark
2.0 out of 5 stars The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters
I found this book very confusing. There were the letters themselves, but also the authors comments. I couldn't get my head around what was going on.
Published 16 months ago by Janet Darlington
5.0 out of 5 stars A great favoujrite
I love this book and find it perfect to dip into frequently; even the paperback edition is however heavy so it is perfect to have on one's kindle.
Published 17 months ago by Frances
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Thank You! It was perfect, exactly what I expected from the description. The book arrived very promptly, and as it was a present for my sister before she moved to Florida this was... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Helene Jones
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