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The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Length: 624 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Amazon Review

In The Mitford Girls, Mary S Lovell cordially brings together the varied personalities of an eccentric British blue-eyed sisterhood that spanned the 20th century. Born of "minor provincial aristocracy", as the late Lord Longford put it, the six Mitford sisters and one brother came to epitomise the Bright Young Thing generation of London society, hosting the extravagant, giddy parties lampooned by Evelyn Waugh in Vile Bodies. Nancy, the literary dry wit, was herself to write several successful novels, most notably Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, which followed the family prescription of fact doused with fiction. Notoriety, though, came elsewhere. Diana, beautiful and strong-willed, left Bryan Guinness the month Hitler came to power in Germany to be with dashing British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, whom she eventually married. A meeting of hearts and beliefs, they stayed together through internment during the war, and the years after.

Tragedy came with the manic public fervour of the unfortunately named Unity for Hitler and the German Nazi Party. She met the Führer on 140 occasions between 1935 and 1939, achieving a rare intimacy, but when war broke out she shot herself in a vain bid to end her life, which left her disabled for the rest of her life. Decca was the leftwing antithesis of Unity, who wrote The American Way of Death and Hons and Rebels, the latter every bit as witty as Nancy's work. The other siblings--Pam, wooed by John Betjeman, Debo, who became Duchess of Devonshire, and Tom--receive fairly scant attention in an account understandably dominated by pre-1945 events, when much of the British aristocracy flirted with fascism. In abstaining from judgement, Lovell, who writes fluently and never loses sight of her charges, comes close to underplaying the Mitfords' more unsavoury views and behaviour, though her task is inevitably fraught with negotiation, particularly as Debo and Diana are still alive. The diverse energies of this multi-plumed brood, who in adult life were rarely in the same room, make them hard to contain in one book, and perhaps require more distance to do justice to the themes, and disparities, of their extraordinary lives. --David Vincent

Review

In The Mitford Girls, Mary S Lovell cordially brings together the varied personalities of an eccentric British blue-eyed sisterhood that spanned the 20th century. Born of "minor provincial aristocracy", as the late Lord Longford put it, the six Mitford sisters and one brother came to epitomise the Bright Young Thing generation of London society, hosting the extravagant, giddy parties lampooned by Evelyn Waugh in Vile Bodies. Nancy, the literary dry wit, was herself to write several successful novels, most notably Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, which followed the family prescription of fact doused with fiction. Notoriety, though, came elsewhere. Diana, beautiful and strong-willed, left Bryan Guinness the month Hitler came to power in Germany to be with dashing British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, whom she eventually married. A meeting of hearts and beliefs, they stayed together through internment during the war, and the years after. Tragedy came with the manic public fervour of the unfortunately named Unity for Hitler and the German Nazi Party. She met the Führer on 140 occasions between 1935 and 1939, achieving a rare intimacy, but when war broke out she shot herself in a vain bid to end her life, which left her disabled for the rest of her life. Decca was the leftwing antithesis of Unity, who wrote The American Way of Death and Hons and Rebels, the latter every bit as witty as Nancy's work. The other siblings--Pam, wooed by John Betjeman, Debo, who became Duchess of Devonshire, and Tom--receive fairly scant attention in an account understandably dominated by pre-1945 events, when much of the British aristocracy flirted with fascism. In abstaining from judgement, Lovell, who writes fluently and never loses sight of her charges, comes close to underplaying the Mitford s' more unsavoury views and behaviour, though her task is inevitably fraught with negotiation, particularly as Debo and Diana are still alive. The diverse energies of this multi-plumed brood, who in adult life were rarely in the same room, make them hard to contain in one book, and perhaps require more distance to do justice to the themes, and disparities, of their extraordinary lives. (David Vincent, AMAZON.CO.UK)

In the first book devoted to the whole tribe, Lovell does sterling work in revising our Nancy-made image of her parents in her novel THE PURSUIT OF LOVE (Sunday TIMES)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5934 KB
  • Print Length: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002TXZSK8
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,257 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well-researched and well-written work, highly interesting and engaging. I felt bereft when I came to the end of it! Lovell has an easy, fluid writing style that keeps the reader hooked.

Lovell makes every effort not to be biased or opinionated in respect of the extreme politics espoused by three of the sisters, and the result is a level and sensible account of their lives and times. If readers want a Hitler-bashing book, or an anti-Red manifesto, they must look elsewhere.

That Lovell managed to converse with three of the sisters as well as close relatives such as Bob Treuhaft, Dinky Romilly and Charlotte Mosley adds authenticity to this book and leads me to believe that this might be a definitive Mitford tome.
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I will admit that after reading the reviews on this book on Amazon I was a little apprehensive about how I would find the book and if it would grate on me or not. After reading the preface I did think that it was a bit too crawly to Diana so I thought it might grind on me the whole way through.

However I ended up really enjoying this book and I appreciate all of the work that has gone into it. I think the author has researched well and has done a good job overall. I do not necessarily agree with some of her views about Diana and Unity - I do feel that she was trying to keep on the good side of Diana seeing as she was still alive when the book was released but in the end, I didn't find it over bearing.

I read the book in less than a week and very much wanted to know what the next bit would be - however controversial the Mitford sisters were no one can deny they are an utterly fascinating set of people to read about.
I do find the line of "Upper class poverty" positively laughable however, these people who live in large houses with acres of land and servants at their disposal would not know difficulty or a hard way of living if it hit them in the face, nor would they have the stomach to live it - so I am afraid that their constant cry of "Oh we're really rather poor" does not evoke any sympathy from me!

The book deals with each sister as everything happened during her life, there was not much said about Pamela but I think she was the most quiet one of the sisters so maybe there was not much of a story to be told. Diana, Jessica and Unity seem to get the most focus, which I guess is predictable due to them each being involved where they were.

This book is a good precursor to The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters which I shall be starting next.
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Format: Paperback
This is a long book, and about a quarter of the way through it dragged a bit for a few chapters, but that is my only real criticism. I really enjoyed it - if it had been a fiction work, it would all have seemed a little far-fetched: how could one family be involved in so many of the key events of the 20th century? Close friend of Hitler, member of American Communist party, cousins of Winston Churchill, well-known authors, the Kennedy connection, owner and saviour of Chatsworth - they'll all in here, and the characters and family dynamics are all interesting and complex enough to keep you intrigued.......
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Format: Paperback
I have never written a review on Amazon before but was so annoyed by the authors biased account of the Mitford sisters that I felt I had to say something. This book is interesting purely because the Mitford sisters were interesting, not because this book is particularly well written.

The author is obviously very taken with Diana Mitford and gushes throughout. There is no criticism about Diana's support of fascsim or friendship with Hitler. The author tries to prevent the reader from judging the Moselys throughout and goes in to much detail about the hardship they faced in prison during the war years. I also find it strange that she never mentions Diana's opinion on Hitler's policies towards the Jews. We hear how Unity Mitford laughed when she learned that one leading Nazi had made a group of Jewish people mow a field of grass with their teeth. What did the Moselys think of this? How could they still like Hitler when stories like this were coming to light before the war?
I actually think this books does Diana a disservice because all we really hear about her is that she is beautiful and very much in love with Mosely. Surely there was more to her, good and bad.

I found the authors description of Decca Mitford harsh. Decca's support of the communist party is not forgiven nearly as easily as Diana's support of fascism. Decca gives birth to a stillborn daughter and people at the time commented that this could be due to Decca's communist activities. Instead of highlighting how hurtful and unfair this is the author comments that this just shows how much people don't like being told which political beliefs to hold.
Decca sounds like an inspirational woman, staying true to her politics throughout her life.
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This has to be one of the most enjoyable biographies I have read for a long time. Although it's not a short book, it makes easy reading, written as it is in Mary Lowell's delightful style that is strongly reminiscent of Nancy Mitford's books. If you know her books, you'll love it for the insight into her life behind the books, particularly the girls' fascinating childhood; if you don't you'll be intrigued by the ups and downs of the family fortunes and their friendships with notable figures from Hitler to the Kennedys. This book is not just a biography of a famous and remarkable family, it is also a panoramic view of the history of the last century. Whatever happened, a Mitford was there - the war (both in Germany and Britain), the Communist movement, and so much more.
Reading biography is almost as much an art as writing one, in the way each reader relates personally to the characters with whom they become intellectually involved, and in the reading of this book it is easy to become very involved indeed and, unlike many biographies, it does not seem to fade away towards the end; Mary Lowell's writing retains our interest right until the close.
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