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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars

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on 16 November 2011
I think this is a book that is best approached after you are more familiar with the individual stories of the Mitford sisters because it really puts their unique lives and behaviours into a proper and understandable context. How did David and Sydney manage to raise that incredibly diverse and entertaining brood? What was it about the Mitford inheritance that almost made their life choices inevitable?

All the answers are here in a densely packed format - not the sort of book you can dip in and out of but then its so well written you want to stay in it to the very last page.
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on 6 May 2013
I never tier of the information gained through the lives of this family, every book and audio book adds a little more information on people of that period.
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on 21 December 2013
Highly recommend....a clear and informative book about the Mitford family. Lots of detail and historical facts. Gives a good picture of the family.
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on 30 December 2007
The book is an interesting attempt to widen out interest in the family from just the famous sisters. It spends rather too long on the grandfathers trying to find eccentricities to explain the characters of the girls.
More importantly, as one other review suggests, it is heavily biased towards justifying the Fascist sympathies of several of the girls, their brother and their mother. In fairness there is no attempt to conceal this, and the fact that it is written by family members makes the sympathy understandable and recognisable.
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on 15 January 2007
I was rather disappointed in this promisingly hefty looking tome, as I had anticipated facts, substantiated by research, and objective information about the eccentric Mitfords - in fact, what one would expect from any usual work of non-fiction. Instead, it seems to be populated by reminiscences, impressions and not terribly interesting personal observations. Pervading throughout was a whiff of apologia, justification and vindication of the Mitfords' more controversial views. I think it would be difficult to write a pedestrian biography of the Mitfords, but this succeeds marvelously, to the point that I had to put it down, unfinished, as it simply did not grab.
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2013
My wife bought this book to enjoy. She did enjoy it and said that I would enjoy it, too. She was right: it has been one of the most enjoyable books that I have ever read. I recommend it whole-heartedly and without reservation.

Why do I recommend 'The House of Mitford'? Well, the Mitford family - especially 'the girls' - have amused, annoyed and entertained for many decades. But this book is about much more than 'the girls' for it delves into the family's roots on both the side of 'Farve' and that of 'Muv.' 'Farve' was, of course, David Freeman-Mitford, Lord Redesdale, but his father was Algernon Bertram (Bertie) Mitford, an MP and very much an educated man-of-the world. I knew nothing of him but I now know much more. 'The other' grandfather (of 'the girls') was Thomas Gibson (Tommy) Bowles, an MP himself (for King's Lynn), a yachting expert (he hired his crews from dear old Aldeburgh) and the illegitimate son of another MP. Bowles owned and published Vanity Fair and The Lady, both successful magazines and both much enjoyed, especially through the former's famous cartoons.

Jonathan Guinness, a son of Diana Freeman-Mitford and the late Lord Moyne (Diana's first husband), and Catherine Guinness, Jonathan's daughter, have had unparalleled access to family letters, papers and memories, and their studies of 'the grandfathers,' their lives and times are superb. 'Farve' and 'Muv' receive full and fair coverage, too, and they appear as more generous and less eccentric than in some more critical essays.

'The girls' themselves - Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity, Jessica (Decca) and Deborah (Debo) - are very well and very fairly portrayed. I have never taken to Nancy, but Pam may have been fun to know. The tragic Unity and her close association with Hitler are not everybody's cup of tea and the Communist Decca was probably an unpleasant individual. Deborah (Debo), now the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, has survived and seems to know how to survive. As I have said elsewhere, I would have loved to have met any one of these ladies, though I would probably have become tongue-tied had a meeting happened. Other than the charmed and talented only son, Tom, who died a hero (in Burma just before the Jap war ended) and much too young, my 'favourite' Mitfords are definitely Diana and Debo, the former loyal to her late husband (Sir Oswald Mosley, Jonathan Guinness's step-father) to the last, and the latter clearly the most consistently loving and loved.

The authors ought to be proud of their efforts for they have produced an educated, erudite, wonderfully well-researched and extremely pleasurable work that will, hopefully and rightfully, be regarded as definitive. It is throughout a masterpiece and I shall re-read it and refer to it on more than one occasion in the future. My problem now is finding another book full of such enjoyment to read next: the task will be difficult.
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on 25 August 2016
Fascinated by this family so love everything about them.
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on 23 December 2015
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on 5 May 2011
The first part of the book spends a lot of time on the Mitford girls' grandfathers; rather too much time I felt. I was itching to get onto the Mitford family itself, but then when I did I realised the grandfathers' lives were actually far more interesting (although the portrayal was overly-positive, both men, Bertie in particular, were more or less portrayed to have no faults whatsoever).

Onto the main part of the book: some of the details of the Mitfords' childhood were interesting, and as a whole it's an interesting portratit of English landed gentry life in the early 20thC.

However, as I read on the book irritated me more and more.

The style is heavy-handed and disorganised. The relationships between the children and indeed between children and parents were badly drawn - that is, very little light was shed. But most annoying of all is the bias in this book. It is so obvious that Jonathan Guinness is trying to vindicate his mother, Diana Mitford (the Fascist). Despite his best attempts, Diana still comes across in a bad light (or at least did to me). You would have thought that, with all the writings the Mitfords left behind - reams of memoirs, letters and novels - as well as the personal insights one would assume the author has - this would be the definitive book on the Mitfords. Far from it.

My advice - give it a miss. There's far better material out there on this subject.
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on 1 September 2013
but with an obvious bias against Decca and pro-Diana. Neither of them needs to be defended or condemned. They have their own merits
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