The Mitford Society Annual Vol. 2

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The Mitford Society’s second annual is now available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com as well as various retail outlets. This year’s edition features lots of exciting features, photographs and tributes to Debo from those who knew her and admired her.  I have included a complete list of contents below…
The Horror Sisters: A Mitford Tease by Meems Ellenberg & Lyndsy Spence

Evelyn Waugh & Diana Guinness by Lyndsy Spence

An American’s Conversion to U-Speak by Nathan Duncan

How Do U Do Social Qs? A Mitford Quiz by Meems Ellenberg

The Making of a Modern Duchess by Katherine Longhi

Cooking and Eating Like a Duchess by May Tatel-Scott

The Kennedys & The Devonshires: A Family Intwined in History by Michelle Morrisette

The Mitfords & Hitler by Jane Thynne

The Mitfords in Love by Georgina Tranter

Tilly Losch & The Mitfords by William Cross

Sheila Chisholm: An Ingenue’s Introduction to High Society by Lyndsy Spence

Reviving an Icon by Robert Wainwright

Decca Mitford: Rock Star by Terence Towles Canote

Doris Delevingne: The Constant Courtesan by Lyndsy Spence

The Asthall Poltergeist & High Society’s Fascination With the Unseen by Lyndsy Spence

Tales From the Archive by Lucinda Gosling

Nancy Mitford: A Celebration by Eleanor Doughty

Lady Ursula d’Abo: The Girl with the Widow’s Peak by Lyndsy Spence

Wolf for Two: A Wartime Dinner with Pamela Mitford & M.F.K Fisher by Kim Place-Gateau

Only Connect by Lee Galston

The Rodds in Italy by Chiara Martinelli & David Ronneburg

The Mitfords & The Country House by Evangeline Holland

The Old Vicarage: Debo’s Closing Act in Edensor Village by Andrew Budgell

Memories of Debo by Joseph Dumas

Tributes to Debo

- Emma Cannon

- Emma Gridley

- Robin Brunskill

- Stuart Clark

- Leslie Brodie

Charles_HRH’s guide to Great Britishness

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This was one book that I wanted to like. Having skimmed through the content I noticed that the author (the fake Prince Charles of twitter, @Charles_HRH) included lots of topics that are quintessentially British, such as: Royal Mail, parliament (including the present Cabinet and past PMs i.e. Churchill and Thatcher), seaside resorts, British showbiz personalities, members of the Royal family, and tea. I did laugh as I read the first few pages, which began in the tone of the real Prince Charles and the topics seemed to stay within what one would expect Prince Charles to chat (or grumble) about. But then it veered off to a variety of random topics, and the tone of Charles began to slide, I began to wonder if the author was, in fact, a Leftie using the book to have a go at the establishment, especially with his insults of various members of the Royal Family, and of Thatcher. I know, not everyone admired her and the Duke of Edinburgh referred to her as ‘that bloody woman’ and ‘that grocer’s daughter’ – still, the author could have made it a light, amusing observation rather than a stinging insult/rant which broke the lighthearted tone. How do we know what Charles thinks of M.T.?

Granted, these sort of books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – some people thought I was off my head when I wrote The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life, but I did keep my themes within the girls own views (having waded through endless letters and memoirs to find their points of view!). The author of this book simply writes an etiquette book from HIS own perspective, and the humour of Charles is lost. Though, there were some laugh out loud observations:

  • “First one would like to congratulate you for making the right choice in purchasing a book written by a real member of the British Royal Family and not Pippa Middleton, who recently released a book containing tips on entertaining guests throughout the British year. One’s tip to you all: don’t bother reading it.”

 

  • “The Second World War started due to Adolf Hitler’s wish for world domination; something that One Direction are obsessed with today.”

 

  • “Her Majesty has been on the throne for sixty-two years, which means she’ll be entitled to a fantastic pension when/if she retires.”

 

  • “Might have to sell France to pay for Richard III’s car-park fine.”

 

  • “Margaret Thatcher was often compared to Florence Nightingale – the lady with the lamp. Unfortunately Thatcher’s lamp turned out to be a blowtorch.”

 

  • [On Northern Ireland] “It is the only part of Britain that shares a border with a foreign country, the Republic of Ireland (working title).”

I would have liked the narrative to have continued on in Charles’ voice. My brother glanced through the book and he found the author’s criticism of the British government to be hilarious. I suppose it really depends who is reading it and what their expectations are. I can’t, however, knock the effort that has gone into it. The cover is beautiful and just the type of pretty gift book one would be thrilled to receive for Christmas. Though it might be lacking in parody, it is a genius example of how the internet has shaped the publishing industry (Headline are behind this book), and shattered the once scared institution of the Royal Family. Imitation, after all, is the highest form of flattery.

One Last Dance by Judith Lennox

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Judith Lennox has written a sprawling tome spanning the Great War and the latter part of the twentieth century. In 1974, elderly Esme Reddaway prepares for a family gathering, she knows the get-together will prove difficult but she must follow through with her commitment. As she reminisces about her life thus far, the narrative takes us back to 1917, where her sister Camilla’s fiancé Devlin Reddaway is on leave from the Western Front. Having promised to rebuild his ancestral home, Rosindell, for Camilla, he is devastated to learn she is engaged to someone else. Angry and vengeful, he marries Esme, who has been secretly in love with him for years.

In a similar light to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Lennox has given us a sympathetic heroine who struggles to gain her husband’s love. Esme begins by reviving Rosindell’s annual summer ball but as the years pass, she begins to wonder if the house has a malign influence on those who inhabit it, and the revelation of a shocking secret on the night of the ball tears her life apart. Decades later, Esme knows it is she who must lay the ghosts of Rosindell to rest.

Fans of Downton Abbey will revel in Lennox’s tale of sibling rivalry, heartbreak, betrayal and forgiveness. A gripping family saga from beginning to end.

Books Are My Bag

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Sadly the days of the indie bookshop are in decline. Although Amazon and other online retailers do have their merits (the CreateSpace programme, for one) there is nothing quite like visiting a bookshop for some interaction with book enthusiasts and for sampling the goods in person. However, that being said, the retailers and pro-indies are in revolt! The movement Books Are My Bag is raising awareness of the importance of preserving our bookshops and they are spreading the message through the creation of this lovely shopper bag.

 

Books Are My Bag ask that we bloggers write about our favourite bookshops. The truth is, there was a second-hand bookshop in Belfast when I was growing up and it was a treat to take the bus into town with the purpose of visiting this shop. I loved walking down the cobbled side street to this hidden gem where customers loitered at the shelves where overflowing books were stacked hugger-mugger. It was in this shop that I first discovered Gone With the Wind and various film star biographies that fueled my love for classic cinema. It was also the shop where I found historical biographies that led me to the Mitford girls. The books were ridiculously cheap i.e. 80p for an Elizabeth Taylor biography and needless to say I bought books in abundance, which were carefully wrapped in a lilac tissue papered bag. Sadly I can’t remember the name of the bookshop, but the extortionate city rents forced it to close down. I don’t even think I looked at the sign hanging over the shop, I just knew it was there.

 

However, that being said, I would like to mention Heywood Hill in this post on indie bookshops. Situated on Curzon Street in London, this bookshop is a living museum to the era of Nancy Mitford, James Lees-Milne and Evelyn Waugh. Spawning a volume of letters between Nancy Mitford and her former boss Heywood Hill, Mitford fans recognise its significance in the sisters’ lore. But Heywood Hill does not wallow in its notoriety, the bookshop is always thinking up ways to revive how they reach their customers and coming up to Christmas they offer unique packaged books. You can visit their website by clicking here.

 

Follow on twitter @booksaremybag

The Crimson Ribbon

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Sometimes death comes like an arrow, sudden and swift, an unforeseen shot from an unheeded bow

 

England, 1646, the country is in the throes of a civil war, Oliver Cromwell leads an army of people against the ‘tyrannical’ King Charles I and witches are being hunted down. A young woman, Ruth Flowers, is on the run. After her mother, a healer, is dragged off to the gallows, Ruth must find a safe place. With a letter of introduction to the Poole family and an expected travelling companion in the form of Joseph Oakes, an ex-soldier who has deserted his regiment, she heads to London. As she had hoped, with her letter of introduction, she finds work as a servant in the Poole household consisting of Master Poole and his daughter, Elizabeth. A real life historical character, Elizabeth was an individual who claimed to have visions and who argued for the life of Charles I to be spared. Alongside the fictional storyline, Katherine Clements interweaves the factual events of Elizabeth and the trial of Charles I. Clements incorporates several themes into her novel: Joseph’s love for Ruth, Ruth’s unconventional love for Elizabeth. She explores religion, politics and fear – namely the fear of being labelled a witch – to drive her plot.  Although history has shown us the fate of Cromwell and the English Civil War, Clements’ novel is full of twists and turns, and this unpredictability ensures we have become invested in Ruth and her story.

 

 

Deborah, The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

Although The Mitford Society is shocked and saddened by the passing of Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, we feel it is a day for reflection on her long and fascinating life. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and all those who work at Chatsworth. It is truly the end of an era.

 

This photo belongs to Fiona Guinness. Published by kind permission in The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life. Please do not use without appropriate credit.

This photo belongs to Fiona Guinness. Published by kind permission in The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life. Please do not use without appropriate credit.