37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
A truly mixed bag,
This review is from: The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters (Paperback)
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. Despite some snippets of very interesting material, for example Unity's accounts of her meetings with Adolf Hitler, rather too many of the letters rarely rise above the mundane, superficial and vacuous. How interesting can it be, just reading that long-dead famous person dined with other long-dead famous person, page after page? Nancy's letters are a case in point. She clearly wrote far better prose than her sisters, but the level rarely rose above an obsession with her wardrobe and the weather.
This is, of course a function of the fact that these women were a product of their class and their age, and I have little interest in, or time for, any of them personally except Jessica, who actually made the effort to cut herself of from the shallowness and to work to actually make a difference. Too much of the time of the others was taken up by bemoaning their lot (only two servants, three houses etc.) or by listing their famous friends.
Only as late middle age drew upon the women did their letters (and punctuation!) improve. This is clearly an important source of material and needed to be put into the public domain, but for long stretches it is also truly disappointing.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Jul 2010 15:40:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jul 2010 15:41:10 BDT
A. Page says:
Have to agree totally. I found this a bit of slog to be honest and felt that out of 800 odd pages only about 300 had anything of any substantial interest to offer.
You know there's an issue when the biographical links between the letters offer more information than the letters themselves.
I think Jessica is by far the most interesting and enlightening figure here, but she only appears a handful of times.
Posted on 11 Feb 2011 16:43:49 GMT
S. Welch says:
This book needs to be read with a constant awareness of the context in which it was written. It cannot be judged by our own precepts of what is or isn't important as obviously for the Mitford sisters these events, dinners etc were. Any history student worth their salt knows that all source material needs to be read with an eye to the past and not with an eye on our own preconceptions or concerns.
In reply to an earlier post on 24 Apr 2011 23:43:13 BDT
I'm inclined to agree. The book is fairly easy to read, but a lot of the letters are very trivial indeed. One wonders how much worse the 95% Charlotte did not include were! More likely, the most inter-esting letters have been excluded on grounds of sensitivity!
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