1 January 2023 Susannah

Mitford Reading

Nancy Mitford

I’ve been doing some Mitford reading in the last year. Always a joy! A friend once told me that you can tell a huge amount about a person if you know which is their favourite Mitford sister. Well, my favourite is Nancy, because she was the finest writer. I’d be very worried if any of you chose Unity as your favourite! J.K. Rowling admired Jessica Mitford so much, she named her own daughter after her. Another friend loves Debo best, while some admit to a sneaking admiration for Diana. Which is your favourite of the extraordinary sisters?

I’ve been reading some of Nancy’s early novels – Pigeon Pie, Christmas Pudding and Highland Fling. They were all pleasant reads, but not in the same class as her masterpieces, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. I also enjoyed two novels about Nancy’s time working at Heywood Hill bookshop in London (a gorgeous shop, which always stocks an excellent range of Mitford books) – they were Eliza Knight’s The Mayfair Bookshop: Nancy Mitford and the Pursuit of Happiness and Michelle Gable’s The Bookseller’s Secret. And there’s the on-going series by Jessica Fellowes’ series of crime novels, featuring the various Mitford sisters in turn. The one that focusses on Nancy is The Mitford Murders (2017). All nice books to read, but all fairly forgettable.

You might like to treat yourself to a Mitford binge in 2023, read some of the wonderful biographies and listen to Nancy’s two fabulous books on audio – so wonderfully clever and funny!

Late last November I had the pleasure of hosting a joint event with jewellery historian Adrian Dickens. Together we presented an entertaining evening at Woollahra Library on ‘Debo Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire, and her Jewels’ which proved hugely popular. So much so, we were even booked out!

So we recorded the talks and I can now offer the edited video for purchase. If you missed out on a seat or were unable to attend for another reason you too can learn all about the life and amazing jewels of Her Grace, Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire who passed away in 2014. See here.

Which of the Mitford sisters is your favourite? Tell me here in a comment.

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Featured image- Nancy Mitford with books, from https://mobile.twitter.com/BroadhurstBooks/status/1597179596029722625/photo/1, and https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11624.Nancy_Mitford
Body image- Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, photographed by Cecil Beaton in 1950, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fatal-attractions-the-youngest-mitford-sister-tells-her-story-nqjf5tl9fsz

Comments (8)

  1. Sandra Hyde-Page

    I agree that Nancy is the finest writer of the sisters, but I have always thought that ‘Woman ‘, Pam, went under the radar. Perhaps she just found them all too much. 😊.

    Debo wrote well, and I admire her for her ability to use her letter writing skills to keep such diverse personalities ‘on speakers ‘ with at least a couple of others in the family. She must have been very good at persuasive arguement to manage that, and to achieve what did at Chatsworth too.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I agree that Pam is unfairly neglected. She also seems to have had many talents.
      And Debo did amazing things at Chatsworth!

  2. Heather Grant

    The Mayfair Bookshop is at our Port Macquarie Public Library so I have reserved it and I’m No. 1 on the list.

    When Richard Osman’S latest novel appeared I immediately reserved it and found I was 41st in the queue!!. I’m now standing at No. 28? There are 6 copies available within our circle of libraries. He certainly is on a winner.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, Osman’s books are extremely popular. I’ve read the first two, but not the third, so will reserve that at the library when I get back from NZ.
      I hope you enjoy The Mayfair Bookshop.

  3. Heather Grant

    I too, am a fan of the Mitford girls and definitely Unity is my least favourite. My favourite is Debo, so I will be purchasing the video.

    Prior to Christmas I read Jessica Fellowes Bright Young Dead. As you state readable but forgettable. Don’t think I will bother with the second one. Too many better books to read.

    However, I have made a note of your recommendations and they are on the list. I must reread the biography The Mitford Girls as I felt that was an excellent read. I’ve read it twice but that was a few years ago. Another read is essential I feel.

    I have nearly all of Nancy Mitford’s novels downloaded on iBooks. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are my favourite as well.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      So glad you share my love of the Mitfords – you will really enjoy the video talk.
      I love the Mary S Lovell biography, but also loved the Laura Thompson one and felt they each brought out different aspects of the family.
      I see Jessica Fellowes has a new book out in her series, but I’m not sure I’ll bother reading it.
      Happy New Year and may 2023 be filled with good books.

  4. Pat Kyle

    I’m with you on Nancy. I love her books. I received The Blessing and Don’t Tell Alfred this year for Christmas to round out my collection. I also have Laura Thompson’s biography of Nancy, Life in a Cold Climate. One of my reading goals this year is to start that bio and as she writes each book, to break off the bio and read that book. I also have her Sun King bio of Louis XIV and will include it in this project. Have you read any of her non-fiction?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t she fabulous. I do like your plan of reading the biography and each book as you come to it.
      I love her biography of Madame de Pompadour, and also her book Voltaire in Love. I have not got the Sun King one, so that should be on my list for this year.
      Happy reading!

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