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Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford Hardcover – 6 Nov 2006
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'Jessica Mitford has been my heroine since I was 14 years old... Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford gives, as letters usually do, a much fuller picture of the writer than either of her own autobiographies, and I finished reading feeling even fonder and more admiring of her than before... Decca's letters sing with the qualities that first made her so attractive to me. Incurably and instinctively rebellious, brave, adventurous, funny and irreverent...
Peter Sussman has done a masterly job of editing these letters.. His footnotes are exemplary, illuminating at least one relationship that had eluded me though 27 years of reading about the Mitfords.'
"Having read my way through it, I'm already wishing there was a second volume. Peter Y Sussman is a sublime editor of one of the funniest, most enthralling and gloriously honest collections of contemporary letters I have yet read.... Here is a book to be savoured and revisited impure and undiluted pleasure, from start to finish." (MIRANDA SEYMOUR SUNDAY TIMES )
"Of the myriad fascinating and unexpected things that Decca's letters reveal, it is her recovery from childhood resentment that moves me most." (THE TIMES )
'Edited by Peter Y. Sussman, Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford (Knopf) captures history's most charming muckraker, from her friendships with Katharine Graham and Maya Angelou to her devotion to civil rights, which led to a subpoena to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee-an experience she later listed under Honors, Awards, and Prizes on her resume.' (Vogue )
"this book, a labour of love and admiration, is... a great treat and a deserved treat." (SPECTATOR )
"These letters are a treat; not so much a collection of of correspondence as an extended conversation on which the reader is invited to eavesdrop... as an example of what a woman can do once she has rid herself of, or at least decided to ignore, the expectations of others - family, men, society - Jessica Mitford will always take some beating." (ANNE CHISHOLM OBSERVER )
"Sussman guides the reader through long footnotes... He was an old friend, and his is a labour of love. Jessica Mitford inspired devotion." (VICTORIA GLENDINNING THE DAILY TELEGRAPH )
"wonderfully interesting... Decca possesses all the characteristics of a great letter-writeer; she is honest, she is gossipy, she has a good ear, she gets out and about and she keeps bumping into famous people, among them Hilary Clinton, Guy Burgess, Liberace and Martin Luther King." (CRAIG BROWN THE MAIL ON SUNDAY )
"a funny, enthralling and gloriously honest collection." (THE SUNDAY TIMES - YOU REALLY MUST READ )
Over her 78 years, Decca's letters are the most tangible tracks left of a remarkable life - from her childhood as the daughter of a British peer (Lord Redesdale) to her scandalous elopement to the Spanish Civil War with her cousin Esmond Romilly, to her life in the United States, where she married a radical lawyer, Robert Treuhaft in San Francisco. The Mitford girls (five sisters) included Diana (who married the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley), Unity (who was close to Adolf Hitler) and Debo (who became the Duchess of Devonshire). Decca shocked them all when she joined the American Communist Party. Her letters are the stories of a century: gossip and politics, war and mores, the wonders of rapid technological change, the poignancy of personal struggles. They are also a record of her never-ending quest for social justice. Her letters were also a rehearsal for her published works (which included her memoir, HONS AND REBELS and her investigative masterpiece, THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH), which refined the first observations she threw into her letters. This is a fascinating collection that reveals to us intimately the most ebullient Mitford of them all.See all Product description
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Despite far more than her fair share of tragedy and upheaval, what emerges is a woman who faced life with courage, humour, conviction and honesty. From a very early age she rebelled against her aristocratic background, running away to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and then America, where she married radical lawyer, Robert Treuhaft, having joined the Communist Party during the McCarthy era, which also signalled decades of civil rights activism.
The letters in this book cover her very early years up to her death. I was most interested in the letters she exchanged with her mother and sisters, and realised as I worked through this book that I might have been better off reading a biography about the family. Indeed I think this book would be most suitable for someone who has already got a good understanding of Jessica's own story and that of her family. That said, Peter Y. Sussman who edited this book, provides a helpful introduction to each section, in addition to numerous useful explanatory footnotes - it must have taken him ages!
This book contains many wonderful letters which are well worth reading if you are interested in Jessica Mitford, and it is probably most suitable for readers who have already read her other works and want to dig deeper.
The letters in this book cover her very early years up to her death and show her to have been a fearless campaigner for left wing causes often overcoming her targets through her corruscating wit as much as through the courts of law.She proved herself to be an investigative journalist of some genius, her most famous book being 'The American Way of Death' by which she almost single handedly detroyed the cant surrounding the American funeral industry.
This is a long book but a total page turner and even when writing about people and subjects unknown to me kept me enthralled.However, I found the letters she exchanged with her sisters the more interesting reflecting her ambivalent attitude towards her English family.
These are wonderful letters from a woman who faced life without fear and I found the ones she wrote when she knew she was dying particularly moving.
Jessica Mitford was an active participant in the anti-racist movement and the communist party in the US. It seems only her indomitable spirit and sense of humour kept her going through the anti-American witch-hunting inquiries of the 1950s and the own personal tragedies of her family. These letters are both touching and shocking and a must for anyone who has enjoyed the writings of any of the Mitfords.