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Review of 'The Mitford Affair' - Marie Benedict

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

It's been so long since I requested this book for review that I'd forgotten what the blurb said. I made the decision not to look at it before I read the book so that I came to it with no preconceptions. Regular readers of my reviews will know of my fascination with the Mitford family and my love for Nancy's books. Therefore, I've been eagerly anticipating diving into this one and it didn't disappoint.

The book focuses on the 1930s, from the time just after Diana left Bryan Guiness for Sir Oswald Moseley until World War Two and as the blurb says (I've re-read it now), much of the plot deals with Nancy's choice between love of family and duty to her country and her own beliefs. The narration flits between Nancy, Diana and Unity and provides an insight into the thinking of each sister. This allows a degree of sympathy to develop for Diana and Unity, not just Nancy. I found this interesting, as by and large, the biographical books I've read about the family do not really do this. Unity is generally dismissed as the insane Hitler fanatic and Diana as being so sexually obsessed with Moseley that her own beliefs and ideals are subsumed into his. Although this is fiction, I'd like to think that deplorable as I find their beliefs, they were at least genuinely held ones, rather than the two sisters being nothing more than puppets of the men in their lives.

Nancy also comes out of this far better than in other books I've read. Her betrayal of Diana is usually portrayed as being borne out of spite and jealousy rather than a genuine belief that she posed a danger to Britain.

Although much of the inner workings of the Mitford minds must be, by necessity, invented, they each remain true to the characters and their real life motivations. I've read several biographies of the sisters and at no point in this book did I ever find myself thinking that something didn't ring true.

I didn't learn anything new (I hadn't expected to - it is a fiction book after all) but it was definitely an interesting read and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the Mitford family or in this period of history in general.

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