The Mitford sisters are a strange phenomenon. Diana married Sir Oswald Mosely, the infamous leader of the British Union of Fascists; Unity was friends with Hitler; Jessica became a dedicated communist; Nancy was a best-selling author; Pamela was more retiring, but married a millionaire scientist; and Deborah became the Duchess of Devonshire.
Laura Thompson's The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters is well-researched with a lengthy list of sources and gives engrossing details of the collected lives of the "mad, mad Mitfords."
Daughters of the second Baron Redesdale, the sisters had an unusual upbringing and controversial lives. Not rich, but aristocratic, sophisticated, bright, and witty--the sisters have retained their fascination through the years.
There are scandals aplenty, alliances and rivalries, connections with the richest and most aristocratic of England's elite. Thompson seems both fascinated and repulsed by the behavior of some of the sisters...and perhaps that is what keeps them, after all this time, of such obsessive interest to the public. With the exceptions of Pamela and Deborah, the sisters have flaws that override their good qualities. Their behaviors can be dissected and explained, but not forgotten.
I found the prologue discouraging (it will only appeal to someone who already has a good background of the Mitfords), but once the prologue is out of the way, Thompson does a fine job with this collective biography--and it can't be an easy task to try to cover the lives of six individuals, especially with such complex and antithetical beliefs.
A compelling book about the lives of six young women and the turbulent times in which they lived. It is rather like watching the proverbial train wreck, you simply can't look away.
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Biography. Sept. 6, 2016. Print length: 400 pages.