The Mitford Society Loves….

Here at The Mitford Society we don’t believe in keeping all our eggs in one basket, and that includes books too! So, if you’re hunting for a honnish read over Easter/Passover then look no further.

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For fans of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles and Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. Set in the 1950s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, it is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the rock’n’roll era.

Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love; but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn’t Elvis Presley, a vast but crumbling ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte’s sardonic cousin Harry…

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A novel reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph – and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth’s…

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Lillian, a single, well-travelled woman of a certain age, wakes up next to her married lover and looks back at her life. It’s not at all the life she expected.

Walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern options for women, Lillian has grappled with parental disappointment, society’s expectations and the vagaries of love and sex. As a narrator she’s bold and witty, and her reflections – from ‘On Getting to Sex’ to ‘On the Importance of Big Pockets’ or ‘On Leaving in Order to Stay’ – reverberate originally and unpredictably.

In Lillian on Life, Alison Jean Lester has created a brutally honest portrait of a woman living through the post-war decades of change in Munich, Paris, London and New York. Her story resonates with the glamour and energy of those cities. Charming, sometimes heartbreaking, never a stereotype, Lillian is completely herself; her view of the world is unique. You won’t soon forget her.

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The winter of 1924: Edith Olivier, alone for the first time at the age of fifty-one, thought her life had come to an end. For Rex Whistler, a nineteen-year-old art student, life was just beginning. Together, they embarked on an intimate and unlikely friendship that would transform their lives. Gradually Edith’s world opened up and she became a writer. Her home, the Daye House, in a wooded corner of the Wilton estate, became a sanctuary for Whistler and the other brilliant and beautiful younger men of her circle: among them Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Tennant, William Walton, John Betjeman, the Sitwells and Cecil Beaton – for whom she was ‘all the muses’.

Set against a backdrop of the madcap parties of the 1920s, the sophistication of the 1930s and the drama and austerity of the Second World War and with an extraordinary cast of friends and acquaintances, Anna Thomasson brings to life, for the first time, the fascinating, and curious, friendship of a bluestocking and a bright young thing.

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Most famous for The Wilder Shores of Love, her book about four women travellers, Lesley Blanch was a scholarly romantic and a bold writer. Her lifelong passion was for Russia, the Balkans and the Middle East. At heart a nomad, she spent the greater part of her life travelling the remote areas her books record so vividly.

Born in 1904, she died aged 103, having gone from being a household name to a mysterious and neglected living legend. She was writing about her eccentric Edwardian childhood at her death and that work, never before published, now forms the beginning of this wonderful memoir. Lesley Blanch chose to ‘escape the boredom of convention’: having first worked as a theatre designer and illustrator, she became British Vogue’s features editor during World War II and then, in 1946 she sailed from England to travel the world with her diplomat-novelist husband, Romain Gary. By the time they reached Hollywood in the late 1950s they were literary celebrities. When Gary left her for the young actress, Jean Seberg, Blanch headed East and travelled across Siberia, Outer Mongolia, Turkey, Iran, Samarkand, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Sahara, making her mark as an indefatigable and generous travel writer.

Edited by her goddaughter Georgia de Chamberet, who was working with her in her centenary year, this book collects together the story of Blanch’s marriage, previously published only in French; a selection of her journalism which brings to life the artistic melting pot that was London between the wars; and a selection of her most evocative travel pieces, to create the story of a fascinating, bohemian – and, at times outrageous – life that spanned the twentieth century.

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When Addie Baum’s 22-year old granddaughter asks her about her childhood, Addie realises the moment has come to relive the full history that shaped her.

Addie Baum was a Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant Jewish parents who lived a very modest life. But Addie’s intelligence and curiosity propelled her to a more modern path. Addie wanted to finish high school and to go to college. She wanted a career, to find true love. She wanted to escape the confines of her family. And she did.

Told against the backdrop of World War I, and written with the same immense emotional impact that has made Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in the early 20th Century, and a window into the lives of all women seeking to understand the world around them.

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And, if you’re partial to a Mitford read, this is my latest offering.

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