on 27 December 2003
In this book, Anne de Courcy manages two remarkable feats. The first is that she found something new to say about the much-discussed Mitfords. The second is that she has given us a fresh and unbiased view of a controversial subject. The fact that Diana cooperated with her biographer deserves a mention; that in itself is remarkable.
The problem with Diana Mosley is that she was, as a person, highly intelligent, fascinating and attractive - but her political views were, and are, repellant. Anne de Courcy does not try to explain away Diana's views, sweep them under the carpet, or attempt to justify them. She simply presents the facts, with enough background information to put them in context.
This book is a gripping read - I read it at one sitting - and it is remarkable for the balanced view it presents. The appendices are also valuable additions to the main text. The biographer does not force the reader to accept her conclusions about Diana; there is enough information here for the reader to make his or her own judgement on the complex person that was Diana Mosley.
on 16 November 2008
Anne de Courcy has penned a fascinating account of the life of Diana Mosley. Her early life with her extraordinary sisters, the Mitford girls and her even more eccentric parents - Lord Redesdale's apocalyptic rages are wonderfully described - display the enormous amount of sheer hard work which Anne de Courcy has invested into the work.
Not that Diana Mosley emerges from the book with any great credit; her political views have put paid to that. And her first husband, Bryan Guinness, is portrayed as a consummate drip, poor fellow. But then, this is not a book about necessarily nice people; it is an honest book and the author has quite ruthlessly delved into every nook and cranny to pluck out every bit of information to ensure that the biography of one of England's most extraordinary women, is utterly first-rate.
The story of Diana Mosley's life is the stuff of a rich novel -- and this is how it reads in the very capable hands of Anne de Courcy. This is one of the most entertaining and evocative biographies I have read.
Her evident deep affection for her subject makes this a very sympathetic, even partial account. Anne de Courcy treats both Diana and Oswald Mosley with respect and tenderness, perhaps more than they deserve -- and this may be the only weakness of the book, because a little moral judgment would help the reader form a better picture of two people who were not only glamorous and brilliant in their way, but also selfish, vain and arrogant, as well as almost incredibly wrong-headed about politics.
It will be hard for many readers to sympathize with the wartime sufferings of the Mosleys in prison during a period in which millions of innocent civilians were robbed, tortured, starved and murdered by the Nazis in hellish concentration camps under a program which both Mosleys would have endorsed.
This apart, highly recommended.
on 2 December 2013
An excellent biography, written fluently and without bias. Having read a lot about the Mitfords, I have always found Diana's first marriage to Bryan Guiness somewhat overlooked. However, in this book real insight is provided in relation to their courtship, marriage and separation, which I believe reflects interestingly on Diana's character and temperament. It is all too easy in biographies to overlook these details, when in fact they provide the basis for understanding the construction of an individuals' identity and an explanation for the subsequent behaviour. An excellent read; thoroughly recommended.
on 25 January 2011
Absolutely fascinating on many levels; an education to someone who knows little about facism in Britain, informative about the Mitfords, a story about love and devotion and the issues that personality can have on the longevity and health of a person's life. Highly recommended.
on 12 August 2009
You can find the outlines of Diana Mitford/Guinness/Mosley's life referred to in numerous books and no doubt all over the internet. I am not concerned with repeating them here.
The main thing that keeps me going with a biography is the ability of the author to write well. This is the second time I have read "Diana Mosley" and I found it almost flawless. Anne de Courcy doesn't have that quirky directness which can make you laugh out loud with a biographer like Selina Hastings - I don't think there is a humorous comment in the whole book - but the prose is so elegant that there is no chance of boredom.
I am glad when reviewers are generous to Diana. Anne de Courcy makes the point again and again that with hindsight we see Hitler as an extraordinarily negative - perhaps the most negative - individual in our planet's history, but this was not the case at the time. I am sure that the German bourgeousie who were herded through the concentration camps in 1945 to see what had been done in their name were as deeply shocked as the rest of the world.
We have to get on with our lives, and most people will adjust to life under a regime rather than fight to change it. This doesn't make them bad people, just average human beings. When the history of Guantanamo Bay comes to be fully written it won't seem quite as cool to be have been one of the highly respected people, including musicians I know and admire, who entertained or were entertained at the White House during that time.
So let us dump this hypocrisy about the Nazi regime being uniquely evil. It was an extraordinarily concentrated few years of extreme right-wing dictatorship, but such evils have always occurred and are continuing today. One person tortured is as unacceptable as one thousand or one million.
The fascinating and exasperating thing about Diana is the absolutism of her devotion to Oswald Mosley. Anne de Courcy is strictly fair, highlighting the times when he was all that a husband can and should be, but one is still left with the impression of a somwehat ridiculous cad who was also a monster of egotism. No wonder Diana loved Hitler - he was evidently, in his personal life, a far more refined, considerate and chivalrous human being than her husband.
I guess a psychologist would look at the Mitford sisters and talk about imprinting - the indelible impression of a strong, wilful, masculine father causing at least four of the daughters - Nancy, Diana, Unity and to some extent Jessica - to define their relationships to men through blind hero-worship. Diana gave up immense wealth, a faithful and loving husband and an unassailable position in society for a precarious existence with a serial philanderer, rejection by most of her class, the squalor of Holloway Prison, and the hatred of the common people [out of concern for whose plight she had become a fascist in the first place].
One can understand why she insisted to the end of her life that Mosley was perfect. She had given herself no choice.
on 27 January 2009
Diana Mosley had everything going for her - radiant beauty, wealth, family connections, intelligence, charm... but she didn't use these assets to her own advantage. In fact, I think her life became sad and tragic through her ghastly involvement with Hitler and the Nazi movement. This doesn't make her any less a fascinating woman but one feels she could have had such a different life. Anne de Courcy presents all the spell-binding twists and turns of her life - marriage to one of the wealthiest men in Britain, divorce, life with Mosley, the horrible treason of her own sister Nancy, imprisonment, and her bravery in old age - in a riveting biography.
on 6 July 2015
This is so well written. The author manages to deal sensitively with the 'trickier' elements of the subject's life so that although we may never empathise we can at least begin to see how Diana Mosley evolved to become the person that she was. A fascinating slice of history brilliantly described.
on 28 September 2015
Good read but possibly not needed if you have read 'The Mitford Girls' by Mary Lovell
on 28 December 2013
Anne de Courcy writes so well and entertainingly, this book on Dianna Mosley was a delight to read.. It not only informs us of life before during and after the war, but it is English history as we do not learn it in places of education. It is salutary to realise how the English imprisoned and held for years, without trial, innocent people whose only crime was that they were not English. The deprivations women in Holloway endured is almost unbelievable. Despite all that description of dire misery, the book is full of amusing stories, and laughs as one would expect of anything touching on the Mitfords.
Read it, read it, you will see!