One of the criteria I have for awarding five stars is that I can’t put the book down. I normally read four to five books at a time, moving from one to another with relative ease. However, there are books that I start and finish without diverting my attention to any other book. This is one of those.
How can I simply describe the Mitford family and in particular, the six daughters? I suppose the best way to paint that picture is to compare them to a famous family of our era: the “Kardashian Family”—but only worse. This English family was best known for the daughters with their political views (and circle of friends) shaped by World War II and the Soviet Union.
Jessica Mitford (1917–1996)—aka Decca—was a card carrying Communist who wrote a best selling book about death. Deborah Mitford (1920–2014)—aka Debo—married a duke and lived out her life as the Duchess of Devonshire. She was the peacemaker between the squabbling sisters. Nancy Mitford (1904–1973) became a best selling author (she wrote an acclaimed biography of King Louis XIV) and lived in Paris her entire adult life. Nancy was renown for her wit and intelligence. Compared to her sisters, Pamela Mitford (1907–1994) lived a relatively private and uneventful life . . . she became a farmer. The antics of the two remaining sisters, Unity Mitford (1914–1948) and Diana Mitford (1910–2003), grabbed the majority of the British and world headlines.
Unity became infatuated with Adolf Hitler and soon worked her way into his small group of friends. She introduced Hitler to Diana who would go on to marry Sir Oswald Mosley. The problem was that Mosley led the British Union of Fascists, an organization that supported the theories, political agenda, and anti-Semitic views of the Nazis. Mosley was eventually arrested in 1940 on orders from Churchill and remained under house arrest with Diana for the entire war. While in Munich at the start of World War II, Unity attempted suicide. Although she survived, Unity never recovered and died in England three years after the war ended.
These were highbrow socialite women whose antics were played out in the press almost daily. Unity’s picture appeared in 1937 on the cover of the British newsmagazine News Review. The caption read “Nazi-Lover The Hon. Unity Freeman-Mitford.”
This is one of those stories where the author says, “I really didn’t make this up.” You’ll keep turning the pages waiting for the next episode of the Mitford sisters.
Author: Lovell, Mary S.
Date Published: 2003
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company; New York
Page Count: 611 (paperback)
Thursday, March 23, 2017