Mary S.Lovell

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family

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"[A] balanced, well-researched, and beautifully written biography….[an] exceptional achievement."—Bay Area Reporter, Tavo Amador
The Mitford girls were probably the most spectacular sister act of the twentieth century."—Vogue This is the story of a close, loving family splintered by the violent ideologies of Europe between the wars. Jessica was a Communist; Debo became the Duchess of Devonshire; Nancy was one of the best-selling novelists of her day; the ethereally beautiful Diana was the most hated woman in England; and Unity Valkyrie, born in Swastika, Alaska, would become obsessed with Adolf Hitler. 24 b/w photographs
From Publishers WeeklyIn her history of England's Mitford sisters, who were major figures in the international political, literary and social scenes for much of the 20th century, Lovell (The Sound of Wings: The Biography of Amelia Earhart; etc.) rises with aplomb to the challenges of a group biography, deftly weaving together the narrative threads of six at times radically disparate lives to create a fascinating account of a fascinating family. Born into the ranks of the minor aristocracy and educated at home by eccentric and perennially cash-strapped parents, Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah Mitford hardly seemed the types whose exploits would generate endless fodder for the sensationalist press. But when Diana left her wealthy young husband to take up with and eventually marry Sir Oswald Mosley, infamous leader of British fascism; when Unity became close friends with Adolf Hitler and a proponent of Nazism; when Jessica, a vocal Communist, eloped with a notorious cousin who was also a nephew of Winston Churchill; when Deborah married the Duke of Devonshire; and when both Nancy (Love in a Cold Climate) and Jessica (The American Way of Death) became acclaimed, bestselling authors, the world responded with avid, insatiable and at times alarmingly intrusive curiosity. But whether adored or reviled by their public, all the Mitford sisters were engaged with (and at times embodiments of) the major social and political issues of their time. Lovell's account of the sisters' upbringing and their often tumultuous adult lives is as lively and engrossing as Nancy's heavily autobiographical fiction; the group biography also does a commendable job of separating the myths that fiction created from the sometimes more mundane realities of the Mitfords' activities and relationships. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library JournalLovell's biography of the Mitford sisters illustrates “the complex loyalties and love, disloyalties and even hate, and above all the laughter that ran through this family's relationships.” Lovell (A Rage To Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton) presents an engrossing narrative that captures the distinct personalities of six headstrong, determined, and witty women who had a surprisingly pervasive impact on 20th-century social, political, and literary history. At the heart of the biography is Unity Mitford, who was obsessed with Adolf Hitler and widely rumored to be his mistress. In the telling of Unity's saga, Lovell's extreme evenhandedness can be exasperating. Unity sent a letter to a German newspaper, for example, exclaiming, “I am a Jew hater,” but Lovell withholds comment or condemnation. While Unity provides the most dramatic story, the lives of the other sisters Jessica, a Communist; Debo, Dutchess of Devonshire; Diana, wife of Fascist leader Oswald Mosley; novelist Nancy; and Pamela are also excellently narrated and seamlessly woven together. While this is not the first biography of the Mitford family, and full biographies have been written about three of the sisters, Lovell claims to have drawn upon “personal interviews, family papers and correspondence not previously seen outside the family.” If you can overlook the biography's occasional reticence about the horrific political realities of Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s, this is a captivating read.– Amy Strong, South Portland, ME Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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