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Diana Mosley Paperback – 4 Nov 2004
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"I defy anyone not to be interested in this book...convincing and compelling. De Courcy's book takes the ruthless moon goddess of 20th-century myth and turns her into a human being, and that is more than many biographies would have done" (Independent on Sunday)
"Moseley undoubtedly led a fascinating - if frequently unsavoury - life. This gripping biography tells her unique story" (Red)
"Anne de Courcy has a riveting tale to tell and she does it with an ergomatic deftness that is enviable. Bold lady; compelling book" (Literary Review)
A fascinating and controversial life of the 'Mitford girl' who ran away with the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, and was a close friend of Adolf Hitler.See all Product description
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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