This book is a fascinating insight into the Mitford siblings. How both single and strong minded they were, the Intimate connections with Hitler and Mosely. The girls had the privilege of high society that enabled them to socialise with famous celebrities of their time.
This is a well-researched and well-written work, highly interesting and engaging. I felt bereft when I came to the end of it! Lovell has an easy, fluid writing style that keeps the reader hooked.
Lovell makes every effort not to be biased or opinionated in respect of the extreme politics espoused by three of the sisters, and the result is a level and sensible account of their lives and times. If readers want a Hitler-bashing book, or an anti-Red manifesto, they must look elsewhere.
That Lovell managed to converse with three of the sisters as well as close relatives such as Bob Treuhaft, Dinky Romilly and Charlotte Mosley adds authenticity to this book and leads me to believe that this might be a definitive Mitford tome.
This is an extremely detailed and always vivid book about the Mitford family: David Freeman-Mitford, Lord Redesdale, his wife Sydney and their seven children: Nancy (born 1904), Pamela (1907), Tom (1909), Diana (1920), Unity (1914), Jessica (1917) and Deborah (1920).
Diana and Unity became notorious for their support of fascism: Diana’s second husband was Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists; Unity was devoted to Hitler personally, spent much time in his company, and shot herself in the head (though not fatally) on the day Britain declared war on Germany. Jessica was equally notorious for her communism. Nancy, Jessica and Diana were all talented writers, Nancy the best known of the three, who wrote, among other things, four novels in which she caricatured only thinly disguised members of her family. There were tremendous strains between the sisters, though, with one exception, they remained close to one another. The exception was Jessica, who would not visit other members of the family if she knew that Diana was there, though she was always close to Unity, despite their political differences. After Jessica married a left-wing husband, Lord Redesdale would never see his daughter again, nor would he ever receive Mosley. Lady Redesdale’s sympathy for Germany and Hitler, even after the outbreak of war, was more than her husband could stand and they lived apart for most of the rest of their lives. Despite her political views, Lady Redesdale emerges from this book as the most admirable member of the family: she was the one who cared for all her children in all their many difficulties and whatever their politics. Deborah’s husband became Duke of Devonshire, and so she became the chatelaine of Chatsworth. Only Pamela led a fairly normal life, though her marriage broke down, as did Nancy’s and Diana’s first marriage.
I feel this is a totally inadequate review of a remarkable book. I drafted a very much fuller one about these lives, but thought it would be considered too full of spoilers. Mary Lovell brings all the characters richly to life and has sympathy for all of them. She captures the sense of humour almost all of them had, and her description of the upper-class setting in which they lived is also excellent.