SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters

St. Martin's.Sept. 2016. 400p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250099532. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250099556. BIOG
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What journalist Thompson presents here is a commentary on the once-famous Mitford family rather than an informative narrative biography. These six daughters of British aristocrats (Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica, and Deborah), in the public eye during the 1930s and 1940s, responded differently and sometimes scandalously to the explosive political passions of the time. Diana left her husband to become the mistress and then wife of Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, while Unity developed such an obsession with Adolf Hitler that she joined his inner circle. Pamela also married a fascist sympathizer, while Jessica eloped with communist Esmond Romilly, fought in the Spanish Civil War, and assumed the role of muckraker. Writer Nancy is perhaps best known, while youngest daughter Deborah lived quietly as a duchess. Thompson documents the pro-German leanings of the British upper class and how wartime divided this clan and countless others. Family dynamics and the competitive, combative relationships among the sisters explain the choices each made. Based primarily on published materials and providing minor historical context, this analysis juxtaposes the Mitfords' story against the backdrop of novels such as daughter Nancy's The Pursuit of Love.
VERDICT For general readers well acquainted with English politics and literature of the first half of the 20th century.

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