Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Mitfords

Yesterday I (finally) finished my second out of the five books I picked out to read - The Blessing by Nancy Mitford. The fact that it took me longer than it should have to finish it might seem like I didn't enjoy it - au contraire! I loved it. It was the first book I read by her, and it certainly won't be the last.

The lovely Nancy
Pretty much identical to the copy I have.
The reason I picked up the book in the first place (aside from its wonderful cover) was that I was a little familiar with the Mitford name. A few years back I read a post or article - something - online about the family; namely about the Mitford girls. The Mitfords were a "minor aristocratic family" (so says Wikipedia) from England, and it was in the early 20th century that the six girls of the family began attracting attention. I found an interesting summation of their exploits (also from wiki): "Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur".

Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity, Pamela

Diana and Unity
From my earlier reading, it was Diana and Unity I remembered most clearly.  How could I not? Two well bred English girls from a conservative family becoming Fascists and chillin' with Hitler in the 1930s? And the younger of two, Unity Valkyrie, was conceived in Swastika, Ontario (where the family owned mines) and attempted suicide when WWII was declared. You can't make this stuff up!

Apparently Nancy was a socialist, which makes sense based on the bits of politics that she included in the book. Her books focus on the upper classes of England and France; The Blessing covered a bit of both. It was wonderful - she has an amazing sense of humour about all of it. I noticed the book was dedicated to Evelyn Waugh, and while I've only read one of his books, The Blessing definitely reminded me of it in parts.

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