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The House of Mitford [Paperback]

Jonathan Guinness

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Book Description

Nov. 4 2004
Among the six daughters and one son born to David, second Lord Redesdale, and his wife Sydney were Nancy, the novelist and historian; Diana, who married fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley; Unity, friend of Hitler; Jessica, who became a communist and then an investigative journalist; and Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire and mistress of Chatsworth. 'The Mitford Girls,' as John Betjeman called them, were one of the twentieth century's most controversial families; said to be always either in shrieks of laughter or floods of tears, they were glamorous, romantic and - especially in politics - extreme. Yet the teasing, often bordering on cruelty, the flamboyant contrasts and the violent disagreements, hid a powerful affection, subtle likenesses in character, and a powerful underlying unity.

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'Bigger, better and back on the shelves. Lord Moyne's lively account of the swishest society sextet has been updated. It's an oldie but it's a goodie'.—Camilla Long

This entertaining book continues to promote the Mitfords' historical interest

About the Author

Jonathan Guinness is the elder son of Diana Mosley by her first marriage to Bryan Guinness, now Lord Moyne. He has worked in journalism and banking. Catherine Guinness is the eldest of his five children. She has been a journalist with Interview magazine and has also worked for a firm of investment advisers. She is married to James, Lord Neidpath, the historian.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but still essential reading for Mitfordians. Feb. 12 1999
By Elizabeth Grainger - Published on Amazon.com
Mr. and Ms. Guinness' massive biographical study of their family is tremendously interesting to any devoted reader of the Mitfords. However, their attempts to rehabilitate the legacy of unrepentant fascists Diana (Guinesses' mother--so it's an understandable lapse) and Unity are nearly comical in their reach. They go to great lengths to discredit those who've criticized Unity and Diana's reprehensible involvement in and enthusiasm for Hitler and his British minions, including of course Diana's husband, Mosley; rather than adequately contextualize Diana and Unit's fervor, these attempts serve only to make themselves appear as familial apologists. The authors' unstinting criticism of Jessica's Communism brings their blind spots when it comes to Unity and Diana's fascism into particular relief.

As scholars, the father-and-daughter biographers are lacking in appropriate perspective and historical context; however, the "insider" information they impart makes the book a veritable treasure chest of Mitfordiana.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all about the mitfords Jan. 10 2010
By Melissa A. Halliday - Published on Amazon.com
this book is (almost) "the holy grail" of the mitford family history. it is a great read and so fascinating. it is everything the reader wants to know and is written by a close family member. author jonathan guinness is diana mitford's son.
i recommend this book highly as a "starter" book for those who are interested in learning about this unusual family. i would also add,to check out other books by other authors. this gives a more,broad perspective of the mitfords and would be written by someone who can see the family in a different light,so to speak...still a great book!
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars House of Mitford: Portrait of a Family April 12 2010
By Greenville National Bank - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read some of their history in genealogy format, but I wanted to read the whole book on the family. I was not disappointed. It is everything I had hoped it would be and more. The genealogy had more information than I had before. Get this book for good reading. Thank you.

Karen Kay Ullom
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph and a masterpiece - the authors ought to be proud of their efforts Dec 31 2013
By Geoffrey Woollard - Published on Amazon.com
My wife bought this book to enjoy. She did enjoy it and said that I would enjoy it, too. She was right: it has been one of the most enjoyable books that I have ever read. I recommend it whole-heartedly and without reservation.

Why do I recommend 'The House of Mitford'? Well, the Mitford family - especially 'the girls' - have amused, annoyed and entertained for many decades. But this book is about much more than 'the girls' for it delves into the family's roots on both the side of 'Farve' and that of 'Muv.' 'Farve' was, of course, David Freeman-Mitford, Lord Redesdale, but his father was Algernon Bertram (Bertie) Mitford, an MP and very much an educated man-of-the world. I knew nothing of him but I now know much more. 'The other' grandfather (of 'the girls') was Thomas Gibson (Tommy) Bowles, an MP himself (for King's Lynn), a yachting expert (he hired his crews from dear old Aldeburgh) and the illegitimate son of another MP. Bowles owned and published Vanity Fair and The Lady, both successful magazines and both much enjoyed, especially through the former's famous cartoons.

Jonathan Guinness, a son of Diana Freeman-Mitford and the late Lord Moyne (Diana's first husband), and Catherine Guinness, Jonathan's daughter, have had unparalleled access to family letters, papers and memories, and their studies of 'the grandfathers,' their lives and times are superb. 'Farve' and 'Muv' receive full and fair coverage, too, and they appear as more generous and less eccentric than in some more critical essays.

'The girls' themselves - Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity, Jessica (Decca) and Deborah (Debo) - are very well and very fairly portrayed. I have never taken to Nancy, but Pam may have been fun to know. The tragic Unity and her close association with Hitler are not everybody's cup of tea and the Communist Decca was probably an unpleasant individual. Deborah (Debo), now the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, has survived and seems to know how to survive. As I have said elsewhere, I would have loved to have met any one of these ladies, though I would probably have become tongue-tied had a meeting happened. Other than the charmed and talented only son, Tom, who died a hero (in Burma just before the Jap war ended) and much too young, my 'favourite' Mitfords are definitely Diana and Debo, the former loyal to her late husband (Sir Oswald Mosley, Jonathan Guinness's step-father) to the last, and the latter clearly the most consistently loving and loved.

The authors ought to be proud of their efforts for they have produced an educated, erudite, wonderfully well-researched and extremely pleasurable work that will, hopefully and rightfully, be regarded as definitive. It is throughout a masterpiece and I shall re-read it and refer to it on more than one occasion in the future. My problem now is finding another book full of such enjoyment to read next: the task will be difficult.
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good read about the Mitford Family. Lady Somerset Nov. 15 2013
By Lady Somerset - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As previously reported one must be interested in the Mitford Family and British aristocratic families of this time in history to really enjoy the plethora of books written by and about the family. Jonathan Guinness' well written and good natured book tells us about his family with more personally known details. It was a joy to read. Some good photos I had never seen before.

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