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The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family…

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family (original 2001; edition 2003)

by Mary S. Lovell

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1,224316,513 (4.04)1 / 102
Title:The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family
Authors:Mary S. Lovell
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2003), Paperback, 640 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell (2001)

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  JMlibrarian | Feb 27, 2015 |
Read during Summer 2002

It took me some time to read this thick biography of all 6 Mitford sisters but every page was interesting. Very well written and easy to follow, despite having to track 6 sisters of a large age range over two continents. Not suprisingly, the main focus is on the more famous sisters; Unity, Nancy, Diana, and Jessica. I read 'A Fine Old Conflict' by Jessica last fall so I knew some of the story from her perspective but I learned much more about Unity and Diana and their involement with both Facism and Nazi Germany. What an amazing family; talented, charismatic, but also capable of holding grudges and launching cruel barbs. The author is clearly fascinated by them but sticks to letters and interviews for her story. The notes, index, and bibliography are massive. I could read for a few years just based on the bibliography.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
Before reading "The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family" by Mary S. Lovell, I had already read Hons and Rebels: The Classic Memoir of One of Last Century's Most Extraordinary Families by Jessica Mitford, Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford, and the first two novels by Nancy Mitford.

Mary S. Lovell does an extraordinary job of condensing down the lives of the Mitford girls, their parents, their brother, and numerous partners, children, grandchildren, and various other notable relatives, all of which takes place against some of the most momentous historical moments of the twentieth century. In a sense the family's story mirrors that of the century they lived in.

The parents known to their children as Muv and Farve, aka Lord Redesdale and his wife Sydney, represent the early twentieth century aristocracy. Both, to varying degrees are appalled by the changes wrought throughout the 1920s and the emergence of the post-WW1 generation of young people, dubbed Bright Young Things, who erupted into society determined to change the world for the better now once the war to end all wars was over. Oldest daughter, Nancy, and her arty friends were an anathema to her father.

Three of the daughters were split across the two political ideologies that wreaked havoc on the twentieth century: Unity (who unbelievably was conceived in a Canadian town called Swastika) and Diana both being unapologetic fascists, and Jessica (aka Decca) a staunch communist. Not only were Unity and Diana fascists but both formed a close friendship with Hitler and other leading Nazis in pre-WW2 Germany, and Diana married British fascist leader Oswald Mosley. Shortly after Britain declared war on Germany Unity unsuccessfully tried to kill herself, and Decca ran away to help the Republican cause in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. These events, along with Nancy's success as a writer, are what make this book so fascinating for anyone interested in this era.

I was slightly less interested in the early childhood years, and in the post-WW2 era. After the war, the book details how each life played out. This is all worth reading but of less interest to me than the extraordinary events detailed in the 1930s and 1940s.

All told though, a very interesting biography, with plenty of conflict (both familial and global) to keep the story moving forward. ( )
  nigeyb | Dec 15, 2013 |
I'm putting this on hold. I checked it out primarily because I really want to read Diana Mosley, and I figured a little more background on the Mitfords wouldn't hurt. But it's not grabbing me this time around, so I'll try again later.
  liz.mabry | Sep 11, 2013 |
This book made for fascinating reading. The Mitford girls were undoubtedly the most talked about set of sisters during the Second World War and its aftermath. Their relationships with each other as well as with influential and notorious figures of the day make their life stories well worth reading. Excellent! ( )
  briandrewz | Nov 21, 2012 |
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Sydney Bowles was fourteen years old when she first set eyes on David Freeman Mitford.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393324141, Paperback)

"[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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:31 -0400)

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A portrait of the Mitford sisters follows Jessica, a communist; Debo, the Duchess of Devonshire; Nancy, a best-selling novelist; Diana, who was the most hated woman in England; and Unity, who was obsessed with Adolf Hitler.

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