The Mitford sisters continue to be wondered and written about. Deborah, now 90, is the youngest and only surviving sister of six, The novelist Nancy Mitford, the oldest sister was 16 years old when Deborah was born. Deborah became the Duchess of Devonshire and admittedly not political, especially in relation to her sisters. She writes of them lovingly for the most part as sisters not fascists - Unity and Diana - not communists - Jessica, known as Decca who is the only sister who left England for America and became an acclaimed writer here beginning with the expose of the funeral industry, "The American Way of Death". Deborah is a special person in her own right. She and her husband undertook the remodeling of their fabulous home and developed cottage industries as well, thereby tastefully restoring the home which has become a must-see destination of both English and visiting tourists. She is an honest but kind writer and adds much more perspective to the ongoing curiosity and the large library of tomes about her family. Her husband's government position sent her around the world and she had very many special friendships with notables in art and government. She married the younger Devonshire brother, the older had married Kathleen Kennedy, the sister of JFK and he was in line to become the Duke of Devonshire. He was killed in WWI just a few months after his marriage to "Kick" Kennedy (who died four years later in a plane crash). Deborah and her husband found themselves in a position they had not expected. As a result of these relationships in the family the Devonshires became very close to JFK and other members of the family. Her first hand observations of JFK's inauguration and later his funeral provide a very interesting and sensitive description of those events. As Duchess, she knew and in many cases had lifelong friendships with, includes many English notables of the time which makes the book even more interesting.
Once I started listening it was hard to stop. It addresses what many of us experience, defining oneself, liking oneself and the path that moves us forward. It often takes a lifetime. This memoir was very honest, shared very painful memories but I was impressed with how she continued to have friendships with ex-husbands and a very special ex-stepmother, Susan Blanchard. She is very generous, perhaps because she is often quick to blame herself. There are certain sections that brought tears to my eyes and others that sounded familiar to my own life story. While a superficial look would make Fonda appear to be a child of privilege, instead we see that behind that superficial image was a child with low self-esteem who lost her mother to suicide and had a father who was emotionally distant. Her naivete got her into a lot of trouble but to me it was all forgiveable. Most of us make our own mistakes privately, not as the daughter of a film icon. Very worthwhile book for those who are not reacting to Fonda politically.
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