The Mitfords: <BR>Letters Between Six Sisters

For much of the 20th century the six beautiful and variously gifted daughters of David Mitford, Lord Redesdale, appear again and again on the stage of world events. Two made their names with their pens: the eldest, Nancy, became the prolific and famed novelist and biographer; her younger sister Jessica, an ardent Communist, emigrated to the U.S. and rose to prominence as a journalist with her indelible The American Way of Death. The youngest, Deborah, married into the peerage, but for two of the sisters, ties to fascism would define their lives: Diana left her first husband for the charismatic British fascist Oswald Mosley and took her teenage sister, Unity, with her on a 1933 trip to Germany. Already a passionate follower of Mosley, Unity embarked on a personal quest to become acquainted with Hitler (she did). When war came, the devastated girl attempted suicide; meanwhile, Diana and her husband were imprisoned and effectively exiled from English society for the rest of their lives. This rich collection of the the sisters' correspondence (nicely choreographed by Diana's daughter-in-law Charlotte Mosley) brings to light their peculiar, passionate, often contradictory relationships -- frequently divided by their politics, the six nevertheless pined for letters from one another, and their betrayals and rivalries are chronicled here in their odd, cryptic private nursery language. Letters between Diana and Unity during the 1930s carry a particularly compelling, nightmarish edge. But the impact is in the whole, sprawling over decades, houses, politics, children, literary awards, and rude houseguests: a beguiling tangle of lives and personas, shot through with the brillance that made the Mitfords what they were. -

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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