I have always had a mild obsession with the Mitfords; I’m not exactly sure when it started, but it has been kicking around for a long time. My first exposure to them was probably picking up David Pryce-Jones’s biography of Unity Mitford at a point when I was interested in what made an upper-class young woman fall in withe the Nazis. This led me not so much to Diana Mitford but to Nancy, and I read a couple of her novels and her book about Madame de Pompadour, and thus was I hooked.

I have piles of books by and about the Mitfords all over the house and at some point I will pull together a post about the ones I’ve read and the ones I’m going to read, and probably astonish myself with how many there actually are.

But for now it’s all about Letters Between Six Sisters, edited by Charlotte Mosley; and what a task that must have been, deciding what to include and what to leave out from a mountain of correspondence over not quite eighty years (the first letter is from 1925, the last from 2003). I’ve had this for a while but decided to pick it up after seeing the Duchess of Devonshire at 90 exhibition when I visited Chatsworth last month. And I have romped through what is understandably a pretty chunky book, over 800 pages including the index, but I just couldn’t put it down. The complex relationships between six women with strong personalities and equally strong views is totally absorbing, the feuds and alliances and misunderstandings and misrememberings all entirely fascinating, often funny but moving and sad as well. One of the things I loved most was the sisters’ use of nicknames, which seemed so specific to their world until I looked at some of my e-mails to friends and realised that I do exactly the same thing.

If like me you are drawn to reading letters and diaries then you will find this really enjoyable, even if you don’t know much about the family itself. Loved it and am heading off to find the joint Mitford biography which is skulking on a shelf somewhere…..

Advertisements