Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2016 book 131

Laura Thompson's The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters
OOOHHHH y'all it is a new bio of the Mitford Sisters--the first since the last sister, Deborah, passed away in 2014, so I was hoping it would be more no-holds-barred than some of the others. Thompson takes her task seriously, though--I mean, of course there is plenty of gossip here, but there are also extensive footnotes and literary analysis. ANYWAY: MITFORDS!!! [If you are sort of going "who?" right now, read this right away! The Mitfords were the daughters of an English Lord and they all came of age in the 1930s and Nancy was a novelist and Jessica was a Communist and Debo became a Duchess and was sisters-in-law with Kick Kennedy and Diana was married to the head Fascist in England and Unity hung out with HITLER. And the sixth, Pam, was like, I'm living on a farm, peace out.]

Thompson focuses primarily on Nancy and Diana--her thesis seems to be that their relationship and personalities dominated and shaped the other sisters--but is less nakedly sympathetic to Diana than Mary Lovell was, while clearly finding her fascinating (Thompson, to my relief, talks about what a freaking bigot Oswald Mosley was and doesn't attempt to make excuses for Diana). I also loved how much attention was paid to Nancy's life and works (if I had to guess, I would say that Thompson liked Debo and Nancy best). As usual, there is little about Pam (surely there is more information on her apparently late-in-life lesbianism) and not too much more about Unity, and some fairly critical remarks on Jessica (perhaps fairly), but of course I completely devoured this! I also appreciated that Thompson tries to come at things from a psychological and feminist point of view, to varying degrees of success, in my opinion. Her discussions of the Mitfords' mother and her relationships with her daughters was spot on, though. Oh, MITFORDS. You really did exemplify an era.  (Thompson also does a good job of explaining why me, and endless other people, being excited about MITFORDS! is a thing.) RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in September.

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