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4.4 out of 5 stars
Wait For Me!: Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister
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231 of 234 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2010
The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire's eagerly awaited autobiography arrived last week and I am delighted to submit the first Amazon review.
Wisely, the nonagenarian Duchess has found the time to write the book herself, rather than subject herself to the vagaries of a biographer. The result is a delightful personal memoir of a long, varied and interesting life. Her vivid recollections of the years before the Second World War give us an insight into a way of life long since gone.
She chronicles the good times and the bad; the happy and the sad (three infant children died prematurely).
The lives of the Mitford sisters are well documented, but this book is different. It brings us right up to the present time with the Duchess now living a well-deserved, happy and contented life 'in retirement' on the Chatsworth Estate.
Just as Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who, when she married Prince Albert, never expected to be Queen, so The Hon. Deborah Mitford when she married Lord Andrew Cavendish never expected to become Duchess of Devonshire. Andrew Cavendish's elder brother died in action in the War in 1944 and as a result caused him to become heir to the Dukedom. He inherited in 1950 when his father, the 10th Duke, died prematurely.
Faced with crippling death duties, the new Duke and Duchess heroically rescued Chatsworth from an uncertain future. I suspect that the Duchess underplays the role she took in all of this, and I am sure that her guiding hand has been a major factor in the renaissance of this great house. She lived in the house for 47 years and left an indelible impression on what we see today.
The book runs to 350 pages, but that could easily have been 1,000. It must have been difficult to decide what to include and what to leave out. There are some delightful vignettes. I loved the description of the evening spent at Calke Abbey in the early 1960's with the eccentric Harpur-Crewes. At dinner the first course was melon, followed by cold beef and melon again for pudding! Similarly the description of the 90th birthday party for Sybil, Marchioness of Cholmondeley is wonderfully descriptive.
What I so enjoyed about the book was that I could hear the Duchess reading every word to me. I do hope she can be persuaded to record some or all of it. It would be a marvellous 'Book at Bedtime'.
I could go on, but instead urge you to buy and read the book. Nothing about the Dowager Duchess could ever be described as dull or boring, and every page in this book entertains. It is very well written and I have no hesitation whatever in awarding 5 stars.
On Woman's Hour on Radio 4 last week, the Duchess was interviewed about the book. In conclusion the interviewer asked her what she thought the next decade might bring. In her typical matter-of-fact way the Duchess said brightly "Oh, I suppose I shall die". Let us hope that, for once, she is wrong and that in ten year's time we are celebrating her centenary.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I am a huge fan of books about and by the Mitfords. I have been steadily working my way through the volumes of letters which Charlotte Moseley has been editing over the last few years, all of which have been superb, and after reading the marvellous collection of letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor last year, I just knew I had to have this book of Deborah's memoirs as soon as it came out.

I was not disappointed in the slightest. Deborah was always happy to style herself as the least literary of the Mitfords and the family joke was that like her father, she had only ever read one book. This self deprecating, fascinating read gives the lie to that myth, but it is clear that Deborah's heart is truly in the country, even though she might have let her head dip into one or two books more than she lets on.

You cannot fail to be fascinated by her account of a lifestyle which is now long gone, an aristocratic youth of privilege, growing up in stately homes amongst some of the most influential people of the last century, the world of debutantes and balls and the great social events that shape the year of the affluent. She takes us through the inauguration of Jack Kennedy, the funeral of the same, meetings with the Royal family and members of parliament, most of whom she happens to be related to. The charm of her account is that she makes it seem so ordinary, and is inclusive in the way she writes. It is as if she is inviting you into her world, and there is no snobbery whatsoever. She writes about her gamekeeper with the same affection as she does the Queen Mother.

The other thing that lifts this book out of the ordinary is Deborah's sense of humour. She has a wonderful ear for an anecdote and enough eccentric friends and relatives to litter the book with laugh out loud moments. She has a great knack for dialogue and creating choice vignettes, and the whole book is hugely entertaining.

Having said that, her life has not been devoid of tragedy either, although she avoids dwelling on these topics for long. The brevity and poignancy of her words leaves you in no doubt however, that the deaths and misfortunes of those closest to her has affected her deeply.

This is an absolutely rivetting read. I was glued to the book the whole time I was reading it, and resented the intrusion of real life bitterly when I was forced to put it down.
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2010
I loved this book. DD writes so beautifully in an engaging self deprecating manner. I was particularly moved by the description of her husband's (ultimately successful) battle with alcoholism and the effect it had on their lives. There are sad times but many happy ones too. I was totally gripped from beginning to end. Nancy Mitford has met her literary match at last!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2011
I very much enjoyed reading this autobiography from the youngest (and only surviving) Mitford sister. The early chapters are particularly strong and bring the Mitford family to life, especially the Mitford's father, Lord Redesdale (known as Farve). Of course the Mitford sisters were prolific writers and diarists - it is interesting to get the perspective of the youngest sister who was able to observe her older siblings from some distance in terms of the years between them and there are anecdotes in this book that I have not come across in previous Mitford works. Deborah Devonshire's style of writing is refreshingly direct and honest and had me laughing out loud in places. She is clearly a strong character but also comes through as very likeable and "normal". I suppose it is inevitable that some of her views on issues of the day (eg hereditary peers, hunting) will jar with some modern readers and I must admit I felt slightly uneasy towards the end with seemingly endless descriptions of sumptuous parties and balls at Chatsworth and elsewhere. Don't let that put you off though - this is a fascinating autobiography packed with the detail you would expect from someone who has led such a full and interesting life. The book also includes some excellent first hand diary material about the Kennedy's, the aftermath of JFK's assassination and his funeral that Deborah Devonshire was uniquely placed to observe and record for posterity.
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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2010
A very nice book to read. DD is probably one of the few people alive that has met Hitler and J.F.Kennedy. As the youngest of the Mitford sisters, she has witness a lot in her long life. However, her modesty and easy going personality, together with a strong will, have allowed her to overcome many challenges in her life. Great fun as well. Lots of humour in the middle of very difficult passages. I enjoyed it very much!.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2010
Only read a few pages...supposed to be saving it for over Christmas....fire up chimney back, some wine, choccies...kitty on lap...and a good book to read...this one!!

I have met this Lady...and heard her in radio interviews...and the book is as she speaks...tells a tale well.
Wonderful humour.

A glimpse of a life style in the 1930's long gone.

Merry Christmas!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2013
I bought this book as I had visited Chatsworth and knew that DD was the last surviving Mitford sister. For some sections of the book there is plenty of detail and for others she seems to gloss over, but then I suppose how many 90 year old would set about writing their autobiography?

DD's style is warm, witty and down to earth - she appreciates her privileged background and doesn't apologise about it (why should she), but is also very aware of the responsibilities that go with the privileges, particularly the employment that Chatsworth and its estates provides for many of the local villagers. She deals very matter of factly with the problems that have beset her life - the deaths of three of her children and her siblings, her husband's battle with alcoholism and sight loss and the fact that they never expected to inherit Chatsworth and the other estates.

Several people have commented on the name dropping that occurs throughout the book, but I felt that she was simply writing about the friends and relatives that she has encountered in her rich and varied life. There cannot be many people alive who have met Hitler, been to a Presidential Inauguration and shared a box with the Prince of Wales as a birthday treat. This demonstrates in my view the wide range of people whose lives have crossed DD's. Add in the various relatives through the Mitford sisters and the Cavendish family and it's amazing that the book is not a lot longer!

The only reason that I have given it 3 stars and not 4 is that in parts it is a little disjointed and doesn't always flow as well as it might. But I will probably reread it again for the marvellous insights that it provides to a period so recent yet so far away.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2011
A delight to read and a very interesting insight in to a world that has changed and is changing. It is also refreshing that unlike other autobiographies it does not "wash it's dirty linen in public", which to my mind is wrong and incredibly boring. I personally think a family secret is where it should stay and do not wish to know that anybody tried to throw themselves down the stairs or had an affair etc: in all it's gorey detail, unless it is out in the public domain anyway, which is why the Duchess briefly mentions some "difficulties" in her own life. I found it fascinating and would really recommend this book to all ages of readers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A fun voyage though the Duchess's fascinating life, including insights into her notorious family. It's full of interesting tales and anecdotes, written in a very readable style and the detail is amazing - especially given Debo's advancing years (no offence, Your Grace!).

From 'coming out' as a debutante before the King & Queen of England, to tea parties with Hitler, to dancing with JFK, to travelling the world as the wife of a minister, the Duchess of Devonshire has had her share of excitement and adventure. In Wait For Me, we get to go along for the ride.

Aside from the accounts of places and events, I also enjoyed the tales of the characters from Debo's life, whose names would linger long after I stopped reading. (I can just picture the long-suffering Muv tolerating yet another Debutante Ball, longing for her bed.) I will miss her cast of colourful characters and her down-to-earth take on life. I loved the glimpses into her life and her history - the country houses, the trips and travels, the trials of maintaining a stately home and, of course, her remarkable family.

A thoroughly enjoyable read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2011
I had always thought the 'Mitford Girls' to be too silly for words & stupid to attach themselves to Mosley, Hitler & communism.

However the Duchess is the exception. I liked her values & her support of a husband, she loved dearly, who as an alcoholic would present 'difficulties' & therefore could be trying at times.

I was fascinated how her friends & acquaintances - who were the movers & shakers of their time, were so entwined socially & in their official lives.

Her style of writing was very matter of fact no superfluous adjectives but her description of events especially about her children who died & her family troubles moved me to tears. She wrote without self-pity but the depth of her feelings were obvious. Yet she was quite capable of writing about other stories which were very humerous & had me giggling.

'Debbo' appears to be very unpretentious, a very warm, loyal, interesting friend - I wish I knew her.
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