Another Mitford Book

Another biography of the Mitford girls is reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. They seem to be competing with Evelyn Waugh for the number of biographies published, but they have an advantage since there are six of them. This latest is entitled The Six (in the UK it was Take Six Girls) and is by Laura Thompson, who previously published a biography of Nancy Mitford entitled Life in a Cold Climate (recently reissued). She has also written widely on horse and dog racing as well as on Agatha Christie and Lord Lucan.

The NYT review is by journalist Tina Brown, who opens with a groan: “Oh no! Not another book about the Mitfords!.” But she found it was riveting and was especially impressed with Thompson’s analysis of how the life of Diana affected the lives of the others: 

…the Mitfords’ rivalries were as intense as their loyalties. Thompson makes it clear that Diana is the still, chill touchstone for them all. The spiky, possessive Nancy was forever jealous when her own admirer Evelyn Waugh fell at Diana’s feet. After the war the Mosleys exiled themselves to Orsay in France. Nancy loyally visited Diana but never introduced her to her glittering circle of Paris friends. Competition with Diana also stoked Unity’s determination to outdo Diana’s fascism by following Hitler. A tinderbox dynamic played out through all their lives — Jessica, eloping with the radical Communist firebrand Romilly because Unity was a Nazi, Unity becoming a Nazi because Diana was a fascist… 

I’m not sure the chronology of Waugh’s admiration for Diana, which peaked in the early 1930s, supports Brown’s (or Thompson’s) theory about Nancy’s jealousy, since his admiration for Nancy really blossomed during and after the war, long after he fell out with Diana; but she may have a point.

UPDATE: The print version of Tina Brown’s review appeared in the New York Times Book Review dated 18 September 2016.

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