“This is the story of a close, loving family splintered by the violent ideologies of Europe between the world wars. Jessica was a Communist; Debo became the Duchess of Devonshire; Nancy was one of the best-selling novelists of her day; beautiful Diana married the Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley; and Unity, a close friend of Hitler, shot herself in the head when England and Germany declared war. The Mitfords had style and presence and were mercilessly gifted. Above all, they were funny-hilariously and mercilessly so. In this wise, evenhanded, and generous book, Mary Lovell captures the vitality and drama of a family that took the twentieth century by storm and became, in some respects, its victims.” (Amazon blurb)
Why The Sisters? Why read about the Mitfords?
For me it starts with Nancy. I read The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate as a teenager and loved them both. They were like P.G. Wodehouse with the sharp edges left in. It was because of reading those books that I picked up Nancy Mitford’s non-fiction book about Louis XIV, The Sun King, one day, not long after I had my first kid. It was because of The Sun King, that I came to write my first novel, Charlatan.
Then there’s beautiful Diana, married to Oswald Mosely. And then there’s Unity – what a story – and that’s before I even to get to Jessica and Debo. Is that them all or have forgotten one? Probably. Which is why I need to read this book.
Another reason is a little side project I’m working on – a book about famous sisters in history – and there might be another set of sisters (or two) featuring on my history wishes advent in the days ahead. Watch this space…
For those interested, there is a very watchable 45 minute documentary on Netflix right now called The Mitfords, a tale of two sisters. It focuses on Diana and Jessica (although the others are there to, making the title seem a bit silly). It features the history writer Laura Thompson who also has a book out about the sisters, but I’m picking Mary Lovell’s 2003 book because I’ve another book by Thompson on my Christmas list already.
I’d love to hear from anyone who has read either Lovell or Thompson’s Mitford books.
Or is there another must read book on the Mitfords that I should be reading first?
History wishes is my Christmas Advent Calendar of non-fiction books I’d love to get my hands on. One book a day, every day until Christmas!