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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Blue-bloods
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...
Published on 21 Oct. 2007 by Donald Mackay

versus
37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A truly mixed bag
This is a difficult book to review. The editing is very well done. The layout it clear and the letters' contents are usually well annotated (though I wish this had been more continuous - should the reader be expected to remember that "Edwina" on page x is the same as that on page y, who is annotated on page z?)

The contents, though, are another matter...
Published on 2 Aug. 2008 by Amsterdamned


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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Blue-bloods, 21 Oct. 2007
By 
Donald Mackay "donaldmackay" (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful read - I'd like to give it 6 stars!, 29 Oct. 2007
By 
Geoffrey Woollard (South East Cambridgeshire, England) - See all my reviews
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"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. But I suppose that their relatively privileged upbringing, their inclination to express themselves with confidence from an early age, their having the time to write so much - both letters and books - and the extraordinary array of celebrities with whom they mixed, all must have been major factors in how and why their lives were so "inter-esting" (or eccentric or maddening).

What were my conclusions? Well, first, I would have loved to have met any one of the ladies, though I would probably have become tongue-tied had a meeting happened. Second, my 'favourite' Mitfords are definitely Diana and Deborah, the former loyal to her late husband (Sir Oswald Mosley) to the last, and the latter clearly the most consistently loving and loved. And third, though it is often said and written that we shall never see such a correspondence again, I suggest that, even with Emails, provided they are filed, it is possible for our electronic means of communication to be preserved for future generations. I have done this with a distant relative and a pleasant (and private) little book is the result.

Finally, I wish to make it clear that I have no 'axe to grind' in praising "Mitfords": I am not and have not been related to or friendly with any of them and am merely reporting my opinion to a wider audience that this book is absolutely magnificent. Buy it now!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars irreverent, whimsical, oddly moving, 5 Oct. 2010
By 
Dr. Vernon M. Hewitt (Bristol, UK.) - See all my reviews
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Much has come from the Mitford `industry', and not all of it particularly valuable or enduring. Yet here Charlotte Mosley has crafted a book of extraordinary intimacy. These letters ripple out over the long years, conveying trivia, love, resentment, anger, amusement, politics, and at all times the bizarre cozy after glow of a world that is now lost. The scale of this work is impressive - the editing flawless, the referencing catholic but unobtrustive. What is touching to me is the slow greying and narrowing of the gauge; Nancy retreating into a world of tray meals and pain, harsh at times but graceful, Honks finally bereft in an apartment in Paris, tired of a life lived to the full and still mysteriously (perhaps even inexplicably) the guardian of her second husband's legacy and Unity's innocence; Pam's eccentric wind in the willows existence. Slowly they retire and the circle of letters diminish. Why should we care about these? Why are they interesting? Because what are in themselves minute, often meaningless asides are in combination a dazzling peice of social history, warts and all: Charlotte is to be congratulated in welding this legacy into so bright a literary gem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will get eye strain, 23 May 2009
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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I love the novels of Nancy Mitford and have also enjoyed her non-fiction work. I was selecting a copy of The Pursuit of Love for a friend's birthday and a lady in the queue behind me asked me if I had read this book. She said it was a wonderful book for dipping in and out of. I bought it.

It is a wonderful book for dipping in and out of. Its eight hundred pages of letters between the six Mitford sisters, spanning eighty odd years is just right when you have the odd minute here or there. Or, like me, you could start reading like that and then get so hooked that you lug it around with you everywhere, devouring every last syllable and not being able to put it down. It was totally fascinating.

This is a eulogy to a time long gone and a unique social history which is told with wit, verve, passion, pathos and huge amounts of humour. The sisters' eccentric and unique personalities shine through with every line and it is just a total delight.

What I found particularly fascinating were the letters between Diana and Unity in the early thirties when Unity was in Germany as an avid fan of Hitler and Diana was a staunch supporter of her husband Oswald Mosley and his right wing politics. Not views I endorse, but nonetheless a completely different and compelling view of a turbulent and challenging time.

The letters have been well chosen and edited by family member Charlotte Mosley, a daunting task given that the sisters wrote to each other constantly, and the introductory pages and the use of well chosen photographs make this an extremely readable and comprehensive book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Veritable Gala of Mitford Scribbling, 27 Jan. 2012
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Full marks to Charlotte Mosley ! She has done an excellent job here. One gathers she only used 5% of the available material but she seems to have extracted the juice with most of the zest discarding peel, pith and pips. Not only this but she has provided a useful introduction and divided the hefty volume into nine chapters each preceded by an equally informative précis of the sisters' lives in the appropriate historical context. Access to family photographs has been granted and a good selection have been reproduced along with photostats of contemporary articles and magazine covers.The letters themselves are coded with signs of authorship (eg. a coronet for Deborah; a swastica for Unity) to make it easier to follow one particular trail. This all greatly adds to one's enjoyment and makes for a very digestable book.

One could read the book from cover to cover or dip into it according to one's fancy, if already with more than a superficial knowledge of this rather special family. There is a huge amount of social history packed into these letters, yet often so personal and so poignant. I am particularly struck how Unity (or Boud) writes about her friendship with Herr Hitler : nobody (unless Albert Speer) has done more to humanise him for posterity. I am not altogether certain that he deserves this favour.
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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
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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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unconventional Mitford Sisters, 26 May 2008
By 
Well Read "saro319" (Norhampton England) - See all my reviews
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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. The sisters lived through the worst and the best of times, becoming embedded in the fabric of British social history. In terms of women's history, they have a rightful place. Like others in their time, they cut through the conventions of how upper class women should be. As to any family eccentricity, that more appropriately applies to their father, and fanatical tragic sister Unity. Charlotte Mosley's book is an erudite addition to the Mitford family saga.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another page turner about a long lost way of life, 25 Oct. 2012
By 
S. Webb "book babe" (Wrexham) - See all my reviews
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This is short because everyone else has said what I want to say already. The book is amazing and irresistible if like me you are fascinated by a long lost age. These women were so witty and droll and could be absolutely cutting and vile, but nevertheless were very intelligent and had wonderful perception. They all appeared to float effortlessly through life on a gentle breeze of immense privilege and money but actually suffered great tragedy like the rest of us, not least the loss of family and friends in 2 world wars, and personal family troubles.
A great companion book I recommend is The Viceroys Daughters by Ann de Courcy. It is a similar story but of the Curzon family of sisters, one of whom (Cimmie) was the first wife of Oswald (Tom) Mosley who in turn married Diana Mitford Guinness and their lives are so intertwined it makes a fascinating story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting and pleasurable read, 4 Jan. 2010
By 
A. Kirk (UK) - See all my reviews
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Mosley has the fortunate link to the Mitford sisters which as well as giving her access to the raw material gives her a great understanding of the sisters, the complexities of their lives and why they all developed in the way they did. The choice of letters is good and the pace of the book sufficient to keep you moving through it, but there is no hiding that it is a long book and for many people that will put them off before they start - perhaps issuing it as a couple of volumes might have helped with that. However it is worth starting, because you won't want to put it back down...

An ideal christmas present as it is definitely a long lunch / roaring log fire / crisp walk / good book scenario - worth buying.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars six sisters in search of an editor, 10 Dec. 2007
No book can possibly capture the incomparable story of the Mitford sisters better than they can tell it themselves. From society scandal to family tragedy, from one ideological extreme to another, this masterfully edited volume conveys every aspect of this fascinatingly complex clan and the era in which they lived and squabbled. Capable of intense loyalty and unpardonable betrayal, the Mitford sisters were above all masters of the arcane nickname, private jokes that are at times caustic, at others affectionate and touching. The childish and precocious banter, the patter of an informal, often fraught, discussion, like a late night conversation in six voices, broadcast over long distances and with much to be read between the lines, is what gives this book so much of its charm and import. It's like reading a history of the most traumatic events of the 20th century with concise, pithy commentary, punctuated by humorous asides, conducted by literate narrators pathologically unafraid of the big issues. Mosley's touch is deft; the introductory passages to each section could stand alone, and yet remain a model of editorial restraint. Like an assured chef d'orchestre, her selection allows the sisters speak for themselves, drawing out themes without sacrificing each unique strand or its counterpoint. This book is a perfect primer to, and an endlessly amusing psychological portrait of one of the most exasperating and alluring families of the modern era.
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