Author(s): Mary S. Lovell
This biography tells the true story behind the gaiety and frivolity of the six Mitford daughters - and the facts are as sensational as a novel. There is Nancy, whose bright social existence masked a doomed obsessional love, which soured her success; Pam, a countrywoman maried to one of the best brains in Europe; Diana, an iconic beauty, who was already married when, at 22, she fell in love with Oswald Moseley, leader of the British fascists; Unity, who, romantically in love with Hitler, became a member of his inner circle before shooting herself in the temple when World War II was declared; Jessica, the family rebel, who declared herself a Communist in the schoolroom; and the youngest sister, Debo, who became the Duchess of Devonshire. Their extraordinary lives are revealed by the author, who had exclusive access to the Mitford archives.
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In The Mitford Girls, Mary S Lovell cordially brings together the varied personalities of an eccentric British blue-eyed sisterhood that spanned the 20th century. Born of "minor provincial aristocracy", as the late Lord Longford put it, the six Mitford sisters and one brother came to epitomise the Bright Young Thing generation of London society, hosting the extravagant, giddy parties lampooned by Evelyn Waugh in Vile Bodies. Nancy, the literary dry wit, was herself to write several successful novels, most notably Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, which followed the family prescription of fact doused with fiction. Notoriety, though, came elsewhere. Diana, beautiful and strong-willed, left Bryan Guinness the month Hitler came to power in Germany to be with dashing British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, whom she eventually married. A meeting of hearts and beliefs, they stayed together through internment during the war, and the years after. Tragedy came with the manic public fervour of the unfortunately named Unity for Hitler and the German Nazi Party. She met the Fuhrer on 140 occasions between 1935 and 1939, achieving a rare intimacy, but when war broke out she shot herself in a vain bid to end her life, which left her disabled for the rest of her life. Decca was the leftwing antithesis of Unity, who wrote The American Way of Death and Hons and Rebels, the latter every bit as witty as Nancy's work. The other siblings--Pam, wooed by John Betjeman, Debo, who became Duchess of Devonshire, and Tom--receive fairly scant attention in an account understandably dominated by pre-1945 events, when much of the British aristocracy flirted with fascism. In abstaining from judgement, Lovell, who writes fluently and never loses sight of her charges, comes close to underplaying the Mitfords' more unsavoury views and behaviour, though her task is inevitably fraught with negotiation, particularly as Debo and Diana are still alive. The diverse energies of this multi-plumed brood, who in adult life were rarely in the same room, make them hard to contain in one book, and perhaps require more distance to do justice to the themes, and disparities, of their extraordinary lives.' - David Vincent, Amazon.co.uk 'In the first book devoted to the whole tribe, Lovell does sterling work in revising our Nancy-made image of her parents in her novel THE PURSUIT OF LOVE' - Sunday Times
Mary Lovell lists her chief interests as horses, sailing, aviation and book collecting. She enjoys overseas travel and is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She is the author of four previous biographies including the international bestseller STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING: The Biography of Beryl Markham.