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In The Mitford Girls, Mary S Lovell cordially brings together the varied personalities of an eccentric British blue-eyed sisterhood that spanned the 20th century. Born of "minor provincial aristocracy", as the late Lord Longford put it, the six Mitford sisters and one brother came to epitomise the Bright Young Thing generation of London society, hosting the extravagant, giddy parties lampooned by Evelyn Waugh in Vile Bodies. Nancy, the literary dry wit, was herself to write several successful novels, most notably Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, which followed the family prescription of fact doused with fiction. Notoriety, though, came elsewhere. Diana, beautiful and strong-willed, left Bryan Guinness the month Hitler came to power in Germany to be with dashing British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, whom she eventually married. A meeting of hearts and beliefs, they stayed together through internment during the war, and the years after.

Tragedy came with the manic public fervour of the unfortunately named Unity for Hitler and the German Nazi Party. She met the Fuhrer on 140 occasions between 1935 and 1939, achieving a rare intimacy, but when war broke out she shot herself in a vain bid to end her life, which left her disabled for the rest of her life. Decca was the leftwing antithesis of Unity, who wrote The American Way of Death and Hons and Rebels, the latter every bit as witty as Nancy's work. The other siblings--Pam, wooed by John Betjeman, Debo, who became Duchess of Devonshire, and Tom--receive fairly scant attention in an account understandably dominated by pre-1945 events, when much of the British aristocracy flirted with fascism. In abstaining from judgement, Lovell, who writes fluently and never loses sight of her charges, comes close to underplaying the Mitfords' more unsavoury views and behaviour, though her task is inevitably fraught with negotiation, particularly as Debo and Diana are still alive.

Hakusanoja: Elämäkerta Mitfordin tytöt

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