Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life

The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life by Lyndsy Spence
Published by The History Press
5th August 2013
Hardback Edition



The six Mitford girls were blessed with beauty, wit and talent, yet they led very distinct, cultural lives and not one sister, except for Diana and Unity, shared the same opinion or ideology.  Nancy Mitford was the ultimate tease and her talent for mockery reformed the publishing industry in the 1930s and '40s.  Indeed, the girls' popularity provoked Jessica to label it 'The Mitford Industry'.  As individuals they exploited their attributes to the best of their abilities, and through difficult times they used laughter as their remedy.  Their life experiences, although sometimes maddening, are a lesson to us all.  How would the Mitford girls cope with the pressures and turmoil of modern life?  Whether it is Pamela's guide to throwing a jubilee party, Nancy's guide to fashion or Diana's tips on how to stay young, this quirky, fact-filled book draws on rare and unpublished interviews and information to answer that question.


How ghastly all the Mitfords sound, though of courese in real life, ha-ha, they are ideal.


Never have there been more talked about sisters than the six Mitford girls. They were the beautiful daughters of Lord and Lady Redesdale (know to their children as Farve and Muv), and were, in order of birth: Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah.  There were sixteen years between Nancy, the eldest, and Deborah, the youngest.  This large age gap divided the sisters into two different generations which, in a way, made them almost like a separate family.
     Nancy, Pamela (to a limited extent) and Diana mixed with the Bright Young Things and experienced London's high society at the height of its glamour.  They were young adults at a time when one could hop from foreign holiday to country manor on very little money, but of course it did help if one was part of the inner circle of the British aristocracy.
     Unity, the quintessential middle child, wavered between childishly gushing to her eldest sisters and throwing her weight around with the younger set; she was a stereotypical lost soul who went to dangerous lengths to find her niche away from her dazzling older sisters.
     Jessica and Deborah were playmates and confidantes; separated from the older sisters, they relied on each other's company until Jessica eloped with their second cousin Romilly.  Deborah and Jessica experienced the 1920s and 1930s from the secluded security of the family home, Swinbrook House, with only their animals to keep them amused.


I've been Mitford-obsessed since 2001 when one day, I opened the Sunday newspaper and read an article about the 'Mitford girls'.  I'd never heard of them, but was instantly fascinated, so I ordered a book online and read it as soon as it arrived.  I was hooked.  Since then, I've bought as many books about, and by, the Mitfords as I've been able, and when I saw that a new one had emerged, it had to be added to the collection.

The Mitford Family

You may have already heard of Nancy, a successful author, or maybe the only remaining sister Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, responsible for rebuilding Chatsworth House to what it is today?  Or maybe you know about Unity, who shot herself when the Second World War was announced, such was her devotion to Adolf Hitler, or maybe of Diana, the second wife to fascist leader Oswald Mosley? 

Diana and Nancy

If not, let Mitford devotee Lyndsy Spence introduce you to this fascinating family.  The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life is a wonderfully light-hearted book on how this variable bunch of sisters would adapt in our modern age.  Ever wondered what advice Diana would give to going to prison?  Or, as a Duchess, what fashion choices one should make, according to Deborah?  If so, then this book is most definitely for you!


The book also contains unseen photographs and personal recollections that are exclusive to Lyndsy Spence, so it's certainly an original tome in its own right.  Find out what Diana's favourite colour ink was, and what Deborah's dream job would have been, had she not become Duchess of Devonshire.  Personally, I love Pamela's tip for choosing an aga - chose one to match the colour of your eyes, hers was cornflower blue!  (Not so great if they are a muddy brown colour?!).  If you haven't heard of the Mitfords yet, then where have you been?  Grab a copy of this, and settle down to find out the opinions of arguably the most famous sisters of the twentieth century.  Lyndsy Spence has not let me down.  This is a worthy addition to any Mitford fan's bookshelf. 


Happy reading

Miss Chapter x

* Thank you to The Mitford Society for permission to use these photos.

1 comment:

  1. The Mitfords were a very interesting family. This should be another good read.
    I am reading "Wonder" by R J Palacio, I just want to keep turning the page.


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