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Nancy Mitford: A Biography

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A biography that captures both the hilarity and pathos of an extraordinary woman and a remarkable life. Nancy Mitford was witty, intelligent, often acerbic and an acute observer of upper-class English idiosyncrasies. With the publication of her novels The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing, she became a huge bestseller and a household name. An invetera A biography that captures both the hilarity and pathos of an extraordinary woman and a remarkable life. Nancy Mitford was witty, intelligent, often acerbic and an acute observer of upper-class English idiosyncrasies. With the publication of her novels The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing, she became a huge bestseller and a household name. An inveterate writer of letters, she wrote almost daily to, among others, Evelyn Waugh, Harold Action, John Betjeman, Lord Berners, Lady Seafield, and, of course, her sisters - correspondence that lies at the base of this biography, written with the fullest cooperation of Nancy Mitford’s family and friends.


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A biography that captures both the hilarity and pathos of an extraordinary woman and a remarkable life. Nancy Mitford was witty, intelligent, often acerbic and an acute observer of upper-class English idiosyncrasies. With the publication of her novels The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing, she became a huge bestseller and a household name. An invetera A biography that captures both the hilarity and pathos of an extraordinary woman and a remarkable life. Nancy Mitford was witty, intelligent, often acerbic and an acute observer of upper-class English idiosyncrasies. With the publication of her novels The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing, she became a huge bestseller and a household name. An inveterate writer of letters, she wrote almost daily to, among others, Evelyn Waugh, Harold Action, John Betjeman, Lord Berners, Lady Seafield, and, of course, her sisters - correspondence that lies at the base of this biography, written with the fullest cooperation of Nancy Mitford’s family and friends.

30 review for Nancy Mitford: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    I’m well-acquainted with the Mitford sister lore through other works about their extraordinary family - and I would especially recommend Mary S. Lovell’s 2002 biography titled The Sisters or Charlotte Mosley’s The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters for a good overview of the family and the interaction between all six sisters. This was my first biography to feature Nancy on her own, and while it was very readable, there was also something dissatisfying about it. Although the author seemed at p I’m well-acquainted with the Mitford sister lore through other works about their extraordinary family - and I would especially recommend Mary S. Lovell’s 2002 biography titled The Sisters or Charlotte Mosley’s The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters for a good overview of the family and the interaction between all six sisters. This was my first biography to feature Nancy on her own, and while it was very readable, there was also something dissatisfying about it. Although the author seemed at pains to give equal time/weight to the various ‘eras’ of Nancy’s life, I felt like the book often just skimmed the surface. I did learn a bit more about Nancy’s frustrating and painful relationships with men (first Hamish Erskine, then her husband Peter Rodd, and finally her great unrequited love for Gaston Palewski), and of her friendships, her travel, her houses and finally her writing, but I felt like I got no greater insight into her character. Perhaps this is partly the fault of the subject, because Nancy was well-known for her ‘shopfront’ - the Mitford expression for concealing one’s inner feelings and putting on a brave face or a good show. Her letters were arch, teasing, comical and prone to huge exaggeration - and although they give a sense of the social personality she projected, they don’t hint much at true thoughts or feelings. There were many things I found myself disliking about Nancy - her enormous snobbery, and inexplicable likes and dislikes, and surprisingly disloyalties - and overall, I feel like I finished this biography with less sympathy for its subject than I had previous to reading it. I think I will always be fond of The Pursuit of Love - that novel with so much of her own experience in it - but for me, Nancy is of more interest when placed within the context of her family.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Belinda Vlasbaard

    4,25 stars - English Ebook Quote: In 1876 Tap married Jessica, the daughter of Major-General Charles Evans-Gordon. They had four children, two boys followed by two girls, before Jessica died at the age of thirty-five. As soon as they were old enough the boys, Geoffrey and George, were sent away to school, but their sisters, Sydney and Dorothy (Weenie), were brought up at home, very much under the eccentric influence of their father. In many ways Tap was a modern father, believing in fresh air an 4,25 stars - English Ebook Quote: In 1876 Tap married Jessica, the daughter of Major-General Charles Evans-Gordon. They had four children, two boys followed by two girls, before Jessica died at the age of thirty-five. As soon as they were old enough the boys, Geoffrey and George, were sent away to school, but their sisters, Sydney and Dorothy (Weenie), were brought up at home, very much under the eccentric influence of their father. In many ways Tap was a modern father, believing in fresh air and exercise, plain food and natural remedies, unconventional theories for an age in which four large meals a day was the custom, with often a little carriage exercise the only aid to digestion. Even more unconventional, Tap liked to have his daughters with him; cumbersomely dressed in stiff serge sailor-suits made specially at Gieves, Sydney and Weenie accompanied their father wherever he went: shooting in Scotland; on his long and dangerous sea-voyages (sailing was a passion he had inherited from his father); on his yacht during the summer season at Deauville with his artist friends, Boldini, Tissot and Helleu; and back in London, paying calls on the fashionable ladies of Pont Street and Belgrave Square, who were not always entirely delighted to have to receive into their drawing rooms two quaintly-dressed and silent little girls. From the age of fourteen it was Sydney who ran the household, a responsibility she enjoyed, being good at adding up and keeping accounts, although she hated having to deal with the men servants who were often insolent and drunk. It was in the winter of 1894 that Bertie Mitford asked Tap if he would come and speak for him at a political meeting,stay at Batsford, and of course bring the children. The Bowleses went down by train, were met at the station by a waggonette and pair and driven to the house, where they were shown into the library, Tap going first, the two girls in their hated sailor-suits trailing behind. Bertie and Lady Clementine were standing before a blazing fire; and there, with his back to the fire and one foot on the fender, dressed in a shabby velveteen jacket such as gamekeepers wore, was David Mitford. At seventeen, he was already startlingly handsome. Sydney, three years younger, fell in love with him at once.- Nancy Mitford’s life was as glamorous and as dramatic as her most famous novels, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Mitford was witty, intelligent, often acerbic, a great tease, and an acute observer of upper-class English idiosyncrasies. With the publication of her comic novels, based in part on her eccentric family, she became a huge bestseller and household name. An inspired letter writer, she wrote almost daily to a wide variety of correspondents, among them Evelyn Waugh, Harold Acton, John Betjeman, and, of course, her famous sisters. Noted biographer Selina Hastings captures the gaiety and frivolity as well as the unhappy truth of Nancy Mitford’s life: her failed marriage and her long, unfulfilled relationship with her dashing but unfaithful French lover contrasting sharply with literary celebrity and glittering social success.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    I read a review of this biography on Amazon that said beware - if you read this book you will be bitten by the Mitford bug. well I suspect I was bitten by the Mitford bug some time ago. Although I have only fairly recently read In the Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, I read the wonderful biography The Mitford girls about 18 months ago - and got seriously hooked then. This biography is very readable, often funny, and a must for any mitford fans. well written it is an affectionate but h I read a review of this biography on Amazon that said beware - if you read this book you will be bitten by the Mitford bug. well I suspect I was bitten by the Mitford bug some time ago. Although I have only fairly recently read In the Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, I read the wonderful biography The Mitford girls about 18 months ago - and got seriously hooked then. This biography is very readable, often funny, and a must for any mitford fans. well written it is an affectionate but honest portrayal of one member of what I consider to be a most fascinating family. I have another biography by Selina Hastings on mnt toobie - the biography of Rosamond Lehmann, which I am looking forward to.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I loved it, but I am currently obsessed with the Mitford sisters. And of all of them, Nancy is my favourite.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy Watson

    I just needed a bit of Mitford in my life, being ill and having just watched the Pursuit of Love on the BBC- this biography didn’t disappoint, from start to finish a fascinating slice of British upper class life with plenty of hilarity, snobbery, sadness and bitchiness. A delight.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    I'm deep into "Mitford Mania" as I would call it, but Selina Hasting's biography of Nancy Mitford failed to live up to the previous biographies I've read about Nancy and the other sisters. The biography is very well done in regards to going into detail about Nancy's life and the people surrounding it. I quite enjoyed learning more about Peter Rodd, Hamish Erskine, and the Coopers. However, I felt as though Nancy's charm didn't come through as well as it does in other biographies. She appears a bi I'm deep into "Mitford Mania" as I would call it, but Selina Hasting's biography of Nancy Mitford failed to live up to the previous biographies I've read about Nancy and the other sisters. The biography is very well done in regards to going into detail about Nancy's life and the people surrounding it. I quite enjoyed learning more about Peter Rodd, Hamish Erskine, and the Coopers. However, I felt as though Nancy's charm didn't come through as well as it does in other biographies. She appears a bit more embittered and cutting than in previous books that I've read, and I prefer my Nancy a little more clever and sarcastic. Maybe Hastings portrayal is more accurate, but I'll take my Nancy with a little more sugar and a little less spice.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pascale

    For starters, this biography of one of the wittiest women of her generation doesn't contain a single funny line. Told largely through long quotations from Mitford's voluminous correspondence, the book oddly fails to illuminate the inner life of its subject. It's a very humdrum affair, taking you through the stages of Mitford's life and career without shedding any light on her complex relationships with her large cohort of sisters or her poor choice of male partners. For starters, this biography of one of the wittiest women of her generation doesn't contain a single funny line. Told largely through long quotations from Mitford's voluminous correspondence, the book oddly fails to illuminate the inner life of its subject. It's a very humdrum affair, taking you through the stages of Mitford's life and career without shedding any light on her complex relationships with her large cohort of sisters or her poor choice of male partners.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Janet Young

    I really enjoyed reading about the Mitford sisters, even though they seem to have lived in some parallel universe. Comedy and tragedy went closely together in the stratum of wealthy,witty and beautiful people.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lukrezia Cosimo

    The book covers familiar groung, but is both fun and very moving.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jossalyn

    had to pick this one up again to recall Nancy Mitford's life, friends, Mitford sisters' backstory; since just re-read LICC and POL, my favorites. last read 5/08 had to pick this one up again to recall Nancy Mitford's life, friends, Mitford sisters' backstory; since just re-read LICC and POL, my favorites. last read 5/08

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Worth reading for the Mitford obsessed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marta

    I simply adored it and adored her. Bless this great lady who's one of my favorite authors ever. I simply adored it and adored her. Bless this great lady who's one of my favorite authors ever.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mo

    Dec 27, 2012 Not available as an ebook at any of my other libraries

  14. 5 out of 5

    MarieJ

    This is Nancy through the eyes of Diana and Debo, and, while the sisters know her, one wonders how much they truly understand.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul French

    An excellent bio of Nancy Mitford - Hastings is a fantastic biographer

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  17. 4 out of 5

    Irene Moyer

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fkm100

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jill Campbell

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Banks

  21. 5 out of 5

    Annalisa

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Georgina

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jean M Hocking :)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Z Husband

  27. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christina Powles

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elin Ekstedt

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter Riches

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