Thursday, June 19, 2014

2014 book 138

Mary S. Lovell's The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family
Sometimes you just want to read a dishy book about a group of larger-than-life British sisters, and that's when the Mitfords are there for you. I haven't read this in years--my prior reading seems to predate this blog--and was amused anew at Lovell's attempts to be even-handed and considerate, even when describing the sisters who were straight up Nazis/Nazi sympathizers. (One of those sisters, Diana, was still alive and cooperated with the writing of this book.)  At one point Lovell writes, "It is tempting to wonder what might have happened had Diana been able to arrange a meeting [between Churchill and Hitler]. Might the war, which tore Europe apart, have been prevented? Hitler was pro-England, and had made a study of its culture and history. He was especially fascinated by the ability of such a small nation to control and apparently subjugate a vast empire containing millions of people. He regarded this as evidence of the superiority of the Aryan race and it is widely considered that this was what saved the United Kingdom from invasion. When Nazi chiefs of staff were poised and ready to strike, at a time when Britain was at its most vulnerable, Hitler hesitated to give the order until the moment was lost."
 . . . . I can't even formulate a response to that, as this history major in me is kind of bug-eyed in rage and disbelief. Jo Walton wrote some terrifying novels (the Small Change trilogy) about just such a scenario, and let me tell you, it didn't work out well. Don't be a Nazi sympathizer, Mary Lovell. OK, maybe that's a harsh term, but she's definitely a /Diana/ sympathizer--at one point she unfavorably compares Diana's war-time imprisonment to DACHAU. DUDE. Come on. Totally tone-deaf. This book really feels like a defense of Diana, with sections on each of the other sisters--minus poor Pam, receiving short shrift here as everywhere else. I mean, it's well researched (there's like 50 pages of notes), and obviously the subjects are fascinating, but there is WAY TOO MUCH excusing of Diana, it made me very angry.

Here is a ranking of the Mitford sisters by the Toast (I think I agree more with Nicole on this one) just for your own edification and enjoyment.

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