Monday, February 18, 2013

The Mitford Sisters

Book Review: The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell

Never having heard of the Mitford Sisters, I tackled this five hundred page work of non-fiction with sixty pages of Source Notes as if I was curious about them and wished to know it all.

Surprisingly enough, their stories ended up fascinating me and making me now an official expert on their varied lives. Except not.

I've asked numerous people if they have heard of them – and all of them had said “uh, no. Who are they?”

They are the six daughters of David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, [1878-1958] and his wife Sydney [1880-1963], daughter of Thomas Gibson Bowles. If I were British, all of that title stuff might mean something to me, but I'm not, but I thought you all should know. Oh, and the Mitfords had a son, Tom, who managed to only be noteworthy for dying in Burma at the end of World War II.

Lovell gives all six of these daughters due time in her work.

Coming of age in between the two world wars, the Mitford sisters caused drama in the social and political milieus of Great Britain, and their controversial lives served up much gossip; in fact, one of them, a member of the group with the moniker Bright Young People, seemed always in the “news” during those volatile decades comprising of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

The oldest sister Nancy was a best selling novelist, Diana, considered an “icy” beauty, after divorcing her first husband, the heir to the Guinness fortune, married Sir Osward Mosely, a Fascist leader, Unity Valkyrie, one of the middle daughters, befriended and spent noticeable time with Adolf Hitler and then attempted suicide, Debo became the Duchess of Devonshire, and Jessica, one of the youngest openly aligned herself with the Communist party. Only Pam, the “boring” one, lived a quiet, county life.

I have to admit I enjoyed the book immensely. With the thrust of the book revolving around the time up to World War II, Lovell used the extensive letters exchanged between family members to recreate the lives of these very interesting women. Hard to believe that one family could produce such a group of siblings, but apparently the Mitfords did.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds intriguing on many levels... as someone fascinated by WW2 & the Depression era, it might prove to be a good read for me too.

    Thanks for the heads-up.

    Was there a movie made about these gals? It sounds vaguely familiar.