Read Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford Online


'Whenever I read the words "Peer's Daughter" in a headline,' Lady Redesdale once sadly remarked, 'I know it's going to be something about one of you children.' The Mitford family is one of the century's most enigmatic, made notorious by Nancy's novels, Diana's marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, Unity's infatuation with Hitler, Debo's marriage to a duke and Jessica's passionate'Whenever I read the words "Peer's Daughter" in a headline,' Lady Redesdale once sadly remarked, 'I know it's going to be something about one of you children.' The Mitford family is one of the century's most enigmatic, made notorious by Nancy's novels, Diana's marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, Unity's infatuation with Hitler, Debo's marriage to a duke and Jessica's passionate commitment to communism. Hons and Rebels is an enchanting and deeply absorbing memoir of an isolated and eccentric upbringing which conceals beneath its witty, light-hearted surface much wisdom and depth of feeling....

Title : Hons and Rebels
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780575400047
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 276 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Hons and Rebels Reviews

  • Chrissie
    2019-05-03 02:30

    I really enjoyed this book. One gets a different perspective of the Mitfords, a perspective from within. Jessica tells of her life and her family from her point of view. Events are told with immediacy, with a girlish gush of enthusiasm that feels thoroughly honest, genuine, youthful and engaging. I got a huge kick out of the humor in the book’s lines. Underlying the humor is a seriousness which provides food for thought. Before reading this book it is helpful to already be acquainted with the basics about the family. For that I recommend The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell. It was very good, so I gave it four stars too. Having read that and so a solid groundwork to stand on, Jessica’s book gives the reader further insight into Jessica’s own character and her relationships with her sisters.Unfortunately the book stops too soon. It covers her privileged, aristocratic childhood, elopement with her second cousin Esmond Romilly, both only 19 years old and off to the Spanish Civil War. It concludes with the outbreak of the Second World War when Esmond leaves for Canada and Airforce Training Camp. She is pregnant for the second time. We are summarily told of Esmond’s tragic death which will soon follow in 1941.What I was given I thoroughly enjoyed, but I really did want more, more about the years to come and more about why the couple chose to go to America and not Russia! To me it seemed that many of their actions were inspired more by adolescent rebellion, naivety and a young lovers’ attraction rather than deep political beliefs. The audiobook I listened to is narrated by Jenny Agutter. It is based on the book’s 1989 edition which restores that which had been removed from the original 1960 edition. The narration is excellent. I adored the different inflections used for Americans and Brits. After this I went on to read a novel by Jessica’s authorial sister, Nancy Mitford. I chose The Pursuit of Love. I knew that although fictional it was based on family events. It failed me totally!

  • Richard Derus
    2019-05-12 22:37

    Rating: 4.25* of fiveI fastened on this at a liberry sale I went to recently, remembering that some fellow LTer was on a Mitford Girls kick. I was inspired to buy it by its ten cent price and also its ghastly, 60s-Penguin "artwork" cover. I like that it says "3/6" for a price, so exotic and incomprehensible. And also, The American Way of Death made a **huge** impression on me as a boy, so I wanted to know more about Miss Mitford.Oh, the joys of being in a master's hands. Mitford dashes off, apparently effortlessly, sketches of her bizarre family, never straying into hatefulness even where antipathy exists. Her completely unconventional upbringing wuth a mother who refused to vaccinate her (a decision with a horrible, tragic cost later: Mitford contracted measles and gave them to her newborn daughter, who died as a result), contending that "the Good Body" knew its stuff, and a father whose major occupations appear to have been shouting and stomping and campaigning for Conservative politicians. Her wildly disparate sisters, novelist Nancy as the eldest and the most remote from Jessica; Diana, the great beauty and future Fascist; and Unity, the tragic figure of the family, a giant Valkyrie (ironically enough, this is also her middle name!) with an outsized personality to match, whose horrible fate was to try unsuccessfully to kill herself when her beloved Nazi Germany made war on her homeland. (The other sisters, Pam and Deborah, pretty much don't figure into Jessica's life, and her brother Tom was so much older he was more of a visiting uncle.)So Jessica tells us the tale of someone born into privilege, luxury, and uselessness, who finds all of these qualities completely intolerable and who cannot, cannot, cannot endure the idea of the life that is laid out before her. She doesn't know what she believes, but she's sure it's not what her family believes.I fell in love with her right then and there. I felt the same way. Jesus, racism, and conservative politics made me nauseated, as they did my eldest sister.So Jessica Mitford, Girl Rebel, looks for a way out: Her cousin Esmond, a professional rebel with a published book and a troublemaking newspaper founded and run before he was 16, fit the bill. She spends a year finagling an introduction to him, suprisingly difficult because she's so sheltered and he's so disreputable; but once it happens, it was the proverbial match to gas!I adored Esmond as much as Jessica did, and I adored Jessica as much as Esmond did. I cried when they lost their first daughter so unnecessarily; I cheered when they got to own that bar in Miami; I sat numbed by the enormity of Jessica's loss when Esmond died when he was 23, fighting against the Fascists he'd hated all his life, whether Spanish, English, or German.I am so glad that I finally read this book that's as old as I am, being published in 1960. (My copy isn't that old, it dates from 1962.) It's very instructive to be reminded that youth isn't necessarily wasted on the young.If you take my advice, you'll read it to experience the joys and sorrows of youth one more time, from a safe distance; but the stakes remain high, because the storyteller is so talented.

  • Stephanie
    2019-04-29 06:40

    Like J.K. Rowling, I worship Jessica "Decca" Mitford. If I had a daughter, I'd name her after Jessica, who was born into an aristocratic family, ran away with her hunky Communist cousin to fight in the Spanish Civil War, emigrated to the United States without a penny, and became a muckraking journalist with no formal schooling. My mouth was agape the entire time I read HONS AND seemed incredible that Mitford's story wasn't fiction. She devoted her life to fighting fascism, even while 2 of her sisters became close associates of Adolf Hitler. Don't get me wrong, though. I don't love Jessica for her political convinctions -- I love her for her writing talent. Funny, sarcastic, and playful, she is a forerunner to Michael Moore.This edition of HONS AND REBELS includes a preface by Christopher Hitchens, whom I also love, even though he's a complete lunatic on the subject of the Iraq War. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jessica's ghost frequently haunts him for this stance, causing him frequent meltdowns by hiding his cigarettes and whiskey. Keep fighting the good fight, Decca.

  • Carol Storm
    2019-05-22 04:45

    Witty and smart -- but maybe a little lacking in heart.It's hard not to like Jessica Mitford. She was born into a world of aristocratic privilege in England, became a Communist, moved to America, and spent her whole life fighting against racism, sexism, and religious hypocrisy. She was as fearless standing up to Klansmen in Mississippi as she was standing up to Brownshirts and Blackshirts in Europe. So it should be very exciting to read the story of her growing up. Jessica had a very large family, and her sisters were all just as notorious and exciting as she was in different ways. But not all of them were as smart about the world. Diana fell in love with Oswald Moseley, the English fascist, and was ostracized from polite society as a traitor for most of her life. Unity's fate was even more horrific, she fell in love with Adolph Hitler, became a fanatical "Jew-hater" (in her own words) and then tried to kill herself when England declared war on Nazi Germany. In a ghastly accident, the bullet lodged in her head and she became permanently brain-damaged, only to die several years later. Now with all this tragedy and suffering, you would expect Jessica Mitford to have something to say about what was missing from her childhood. But there's a weird disconnect in the way she condemns her sisters' politics but entirely avoids the question of what made them so angry that they would literally need to stomp on strangers just to feel good about themselves. The real answer begins at home -- but Jessica, while ridiculing her parents' snobbery, is strangely silent about the underlying coldness and lack of love in her childhood home. At times you get the impression that Jessica herself really doesn't get that there's anything "strange" about a girl falling in love with Adolph Hitler, or talking openly about suicide as her only alternative if things go bad. This book has plenty of wit, plenty of eccentric characters, but very little insight and no heart at all.

  • SarahHannah
    2019-05-18 22:15

    I read this quite hungrily because I needed a Mitford fix and I couldn't get the Sisters bio on kindle. As others have noted there's something a bit flat here and I was surprisingly a bit disappointed. Unity comes across as grotesque but it's never really explored. And the dashing Esmond little better than a smarmy conman in the US. There's a lot of eccentricity, tragedy and adventure but I didn't FEEL it.

  • Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
    2019-05-18 04:40

    Jessica Mitford was the "Ballroom Communist" of the engagingly eccentric Mitford Family. The second youngest daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdalee, she had an unconventional upbringing where education was the bare minimum to make a good wife. Always wishing for an escape from her family, be it through schooling or politics or moving to another continent, she suffered through being a deb and presentation before the queen and watching her family come apart at the seems due to adivergence in beliefs. But at her first chance she ran off with her cousin, Esmond Rommilly , the nephew of Winston Churchill, to fight Franco in Spain. What with all of England trying to force her home, sending really big ships no less, even the courts of Chancery, it's surprising that she actually was able to succeed in her convictions and in marryingEsmond. The madcap and eccentric life that followed from Rotherhithe to the United States with Esmond equals that of her earlier life, but with herself being the master of her fate.I rarely read biographies. I have to say, if more biographies were as fun and enjoyable as Jessica Mitford's I would read nothing but. The Mitford family has always been fascinating to me, what with the sisters paths being so divergent. Nancy was one of the "Bright Young Things" and a literary darling, with Love in a Cold Climate, which basically skewered her own family for her amusement. Pamela was horse obsessed and kind of out of the limelight. Diana married the heir to the Guinness fortune then divorced him to have an affair with the head of the British Facist party. When they eventually married, Hitler was at their wedding, which was held at the Goebbels' house. She also spent time in prison. Unity was Hitler's biggest fan and when war broke out between England and Germany she failed at committing suicide only to die of meningitis. AndDebo... well she married the Duke of Devonshire and lives at Chatsworth , writes books about chickens and is the last remaining Mitford daughter. You could not make this stuff up! From her earliest days with family to her later life withEsmond, Jessica captures the love she had for these people while at the same time the exasperation of her situation . From hoarding money so she could run away, to the ultimate subterfuge that resulted in her being victorious, even if she had to chase the SpanishConsulate representative all over England and France. To the years scarping by in the States doing anything and everything to stay there, from selling stockings door to door to being a bouncer at a bar. That's right, Jessica, not her husband, was the bouncer.Given the extreme fame of her family and the career Jessica later established as a journalist in her own right, if a muckracker at that, it's beyond enjoyable to see where it all began. The fact that a high born Hon would eschew her family and their beliefs to set out on her own crusade for right, for the poor and disadvantaged, is a noble crusade indeed. But what you also see is that with Esmond, this is a love story. From her first hearing mention of him, she was in love. From their similar backgrounds of trying to shed off what was their families hereditary hangups, she envied him for his actual escape and later he aided her escape as well. Whether he felt the same inevitability as her that they were meant to be is hinted at. But what is certain is that they were perfectly matched. It makes sense that the book ends with the outbreak of World War II. It's the event that, more than anything, shaped that generation, but more personally than that, embodied the division of this family. It was also the event that would claim Esmond's life. But at least in this book, we can see the love still remains.

  • Ali
    2019-05-06 23:16

    It's quite surprising that I hadn't read this book before - as I have become a little addicted to reading about the mad bad Mitfords. This is a really well written, funny memoir from one of those infamous sisters. If anyone asked me who my favourite Mitford was it would be Nancy every time, the most fascinating was Diana, but the one I would have most likely liked in real life - would have been Jessica. Her warmth and likability come across strongly in this book, and she was able to poke gentle fun at herself, at the same time. The early part of the book which recounts the so often told story of the Mitfords growing up at Swinbrook was my favourite part of the book. The stories are a little different however, because of course Jessica was quite a bit younger than Nancy, Pam, Tom and Diana, and so the stories involving her, Unity and Debo are not quite the ones we know and which were told so well by Nancy. In other books I have read about the Mitfords, I had never really got a feeling for Esmond Romilly, Decca's first husband, but here he is portrayed faithfully and of course with real affection. An excellent memoir, which I am immediately adding to mypermanent collection of books.

  • Dan
    2019-05-13 01:37

    A spotty memoir that glides over much of the author's early life while providing details on some seemingly random episodes. The picture of her wacky childhood is charmingly told albeit somewhat terrifying to contemplate - I could have used more about each Mitford sister and more insight into how this teeming brood of aristos wound up careening off in wildly different directions. After a gripping tale of Decca's escape to Civil War Spain with her cousin, the teenaged antifascist Esmond Romilly, the book runs out of gas as the young couple goes to America and stumbles from one survival scheme to the next. When World War II breaks out in earnest, Esmond drives off to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the book abruptly ends. We're told in an author footnote(!) that he was killed in action at age 23. In all a disappointment with flashes of insight and humor.

  • Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
    2019-04-27 04:15

    I first read this sometime back in the 80s. What was my surprise to find it again under a slightly different title, "Daughters and Rebels", which GR does not recognise (or rather it just leads you here.) Have to admit "Hons" catches the eye more.When I first read this book I knew nothing about the Mitfords, Oswald Moseley, or any of their ilk. "Rebellion" is the active word. Raised in isolation and comfort (servants, etc), all but one of the Mitford girls rebelled in her own way. One turned to writing as a form of payback, another embraced Nazism, while the author of this memoir chose her romanticised, unrealistic version of Communism. At least Unity found out what Fascism was really about (and apparently approved)--she went to Germany and wormed her way into one of Hitler's upper circles, though having the perfect Aryan phenotype (not to mention the name Unity Valkyrie!) as well as blue blood probably helped there.Being a faux-communist does not inspire Decca to learn to be a contributing member of the worker's society. She doesn't even know how to pick up her own clothes or cook a meal, let alone acquiring any of the usual skills for young women with working ambitions such as typing or shorthand, which even in her class would not have been considered "infra dig", but "rather fun, you know!" Her "artistic" sister returns from London very soon after she achieves permission to go there and study, when she realises she has to clean up her own bedsit and wash her own underwear!Another reviewer mentions the coldness that underlies this story, and I have to agree. While she does speak of Unity as her favourite sister, she is careful to point up that the nicknames "Muv" and "Farve" do not indicate a cosy relationship. I have no idea at what age she wrote this book, but either she was an excellent writer who could recapture the emotional and intellectual immaturity of herself as a young woman, or she just never grew up. She goes from being a perpetually "bored" and sulky teenager who doesn't even enjoy a round the world trip got up for her especial benefit, to being a perpetually clueless wife. Decca and her (also upper-class, public schoolboy) husband play about with ballroom Communism, but even he sees no disphase between his "ideology" and their lifestyle. They eat most of their meals out, and given their lack of marketable skills they spend most of their short married life mooching off others, seeing this as cleverness. They ruin a friend's car and leave it parked on a sidestreet, sighing that "journalists never look after their things." Her husband should know, since he can't even work the expensive camera he charged to his father in law's account at the Army and Navy stores (without the man's knowledge or permission, of course) even before they are married!The Romilly family's solution to all problems seems to be running away. He began by running away from boarding school, setting himself up as a "centre for runaways"--of his own class, of course. The child Decca creates a "running away from home" bank account, and subsequently goes with Romilly to Spain, where they basically sit around; he writes about the people who truly are starving and dying in the streets, while the couple themselves live rent-free in the press hotel and consume "huge greasy" meals of many courses.Back in England, they flee bill collectors (Imagine! You're expected to pay for electricity!) and Romilly tries to set up a gambling den, having one of those "infallible systems" that consumes all her savings in a weekend. When their child dies, they run away from the family's condolences to live in "unreal" Corsica. Then when WW2 begins to loom, they run away to the US, where the mooching continues (and where the narrative begins to bog down). For all her romantic belief that Romilly takes all problems into account before acting, he certainly flounders from one silly get-rich-quick scheme to another, getting "tooken" again and again. More chancer than rebel, his schemes always involve a good amount of freeloading. We won't even discuss their attitude toward the Americans they merrily take advantage of at every turn.Througout the narrative, Mitford's innate sense of superiority to everyone around her, whoever they might be, is a constant. Her family, the English Communist party members, her husbands friends--she's smarter and better than all of them. That doesn't save her from stating on p. 277: There was no doubt it was going to be a dull war, and the absence of the Communists, who annouced they were sticking by their characterisation of it as an "imperialist war" would make it even duller. Fighting in such a war would be an irksome task, dogged by boredom every step of the way, but nonetheless essential.The memoir is chopped short at this point, when her husband leaves for Canada to enlist, having ensconced his pregnant wife in the home of some wealthy Americans (on whom she also looks down) who don't quite realise she is being foisted on them for the duration. One wonders how long the marriage would have lasted if he had returned from the front.As you can tell, I found none of the characters particularly sympathetic, especially the authoress herself. While I do wonder what happened to this spoiled child, I don't wonder enough to find out if she wrote any more books.

  • Emily Ross
    2019-04-30 01:32

    I love reading about the Mitfords. My favourite has always been Nancy, because I love her biographies of French political figures. I've never paid much attention to Jessica 'Decca' Mitford, and this book doesn't really make me want to. It comes across as quite flat. The first half was pretty good, though parts did come across as quite childish. The second half, detailing after she met Esmond, who didn't come across well at all, mainly being a semi con-man or a man trying to achieve 'the American Dream' and failing quite miserably, was incredibly boring. I admire Decca's tenacity and determination in this half, but it jumped from "we met up with blah blah and talked and played cards all night" to "we had no money and could barely afford a glass of water in a cafe". It felt quite disjointed. Her sisters, too, were quite enigmatic in the book, and I wonder if Decca really understood them when she was writing.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-18 00:18

    Jessica Mitford's dashing and dramatic life story is almost too good to be true from a biography standpoint--and she's so utterly appealing that I think I have a bit of crush on her. Aristocratic and hilariously eccentric upbringing, one of the famous/infamous Mitford sisters (their number including a noted writer in Nancy, not one but TWO Nazis, and a communist--that's Jessica), elopement with her dreamy second cousin and their travels to go fight in the Spanish Civil War, emmigrating to America on next to no money, romantic slumming around the really could not make a lot of this stuff up. This is a very romantic book; the relationship between Esmund and her, especially their time on the road in America, is so sweetly portrayed. I really enjoyed seeing pre-war America through their eyes. Also, there is some lovely writing about the importance that books can have on the interior life of bookish children that had me nodding my head in agreement. The book was a ripping story, delightfully told. The only thing I wished was different about it was how oddly light on information it was about some rather important details. The name of the infant daughter who died is never given, for instance; her beloved husband's death in the war is revealed offhand in a footnote; we never find out what happened to Unity, her favorite sister, the fascist and close friend of Hitler, after just surviving her suicide attempt at the outbreak of war between Germany and England. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

  • Andrew
    2019-05-08 03:44

    Regrettably, Jessica Mitford doesn't seem to be much-remembered nowadays. I read The American Way of Death at the urging of the old man in high school (and adored it) -- Mitford was quite au courant then, and was one of those great mid-century writers who sought to revolutionize reportage... the Capotes and the Wolfes and the Hunter Thompsons and the Didions.Although a book like Hons and Rebels, well, it deserves to be remembered. It deserves to be remembered because it describes the exuberance of youthful folly so well, the impulse to get out of town, and in doing so to remake the world radically, tramping across France, Spain, and America in the process.And it deserves to be remembered because of the depictions of what Madame Mitford was escaping, the Nazi sisters, the reactionary, anti-vaxxer, idiot aristocrat parents -- you can so easily see a modern-day "Muv" and "Farve" popping up Reddit's r/insanepeoplefacebook, Muv ranting about the government's attempt to pollute her pure children, Farve decorating names with triple parentheses (and possibly having some hideously shot Youtube channel titled with a Brett Favre pun).

  • Lysergius
    2019-04-28 06:35

    By turns hilarious and poignant, Jessica Mitford's account of her formative years is a classic. As a member of one of the century's most extraordinary families she has many a tale to tell. Strikingly observant and extremely well written, "Hons and Rebels" manages to convey the flavour of the English upper classes in such a way as to make them likeable. No mean feat.

  • Amerynth
    2019-05-04 01:20

    I have a little bit of an obsession with the six Mitford sisters, mainly because I find it fascinating that six aristocratic British girls grew up and took such divergent paths. (For those not familiar, one became an author, another a farmer, one a Nazi, one a Fascist, another a duchess and finally, Jessica, who wrote "Hons and Rebels" -- who became a Communist with plans to fight in the Spanish Civil War before she eloped and headed off to America where she fought for social justice. )Jessica's memoir is at its best when she talks about her early family life and tells the stories of her sisters. The latter half of the book focuses on her romance with Esmond Romilly, her cousin and Winston Churchill's dashing nephew, who comes across as kind of a conman, initially interested in Jessica for her money. There wasn't a ton of insight into the family that I didn't get from reading a giant tome of letters between the sisters several years ago, but it was nice to hear more about Jessica's life (since she and her sisters were frequently not on speaking terms.) Glad to have read this one.

  • Sierra
    2019-04-25 05:17

    Vastly underestimated this book by its title, cover, genre, datedness etc. Hilarious, sparkling, broad, historical, page turning even. The humor reminded me of Sedaris, but with crazier roots and the sweeping stage of upper class england between the wars.

  • Victoria Kellaway
    2019-04-28 05:40

    I can't believe how moved I was by this book. I'm accustomed to starting to read my next book the moment I finish the previous one, but for some reason I couldn't here. I needed several hours to savour Hons and Rebels. It broke my heart in the strangest way.It's a classic memoir of a classic time, the 1920s and the 1930s, which is one of my favourite periods of history anyway. The characters who wander in and out of Hons and Rebels are a marvel, think Evelyn Waugh, Winston Churchill, WH Auden. Even Adolf Hitler had something to say about Jessica Mitford! The book would have been enjoyable for that alone.But for me, Hons and Rebels went far beyond a memoir. It spoke of an England divided, half generous towards the refugees who fled from Hitler, half disparaging. There are comments such as, "The Jews brought this on themselves," and "It's harsh, but Hitler is only doing what he must to rebuild his country." (Make his country great again?) It felt like a warning. It's the story of a war no-one believed would ever happen. And when it did, of course, the effects were devastating.

  • Emma
    2019-05-19 22:21

    This book reads like a love letter to Esmond Romilly...seen through rose tinted glasses of the past and of a first love. I tried reading this book once before, but struggled to get past the sheer selfishness of both Decca and Esmond. When I first read this book I disliked both intensely, despising Esmond for driving a wedge between Decca and her family, and Decca for being so complacent. However, I recently read the collection of letters between the 6 sisters and gained more respect for Decca. I have to say that my favourite parts of the book were describing her childhood, to me that was where she sparkled the most. Although I did feel that if she had not acted like a petulant child and taught herself-if she had wanted to learn about things and study further she could have taught herself, my grandmother did that-I also think she would have enjoyed herself more...but I digress this is not a space for me to criticize her childhood. But I love all things Mitford and did indeed enjoy her wit and recollections and can't wait to read other books that the "Queen of the Muckrakers wrote.

  • Sub_zero
    2019-05-02 03:42

    En Nobles y rebeldes, la propia Jessica Mitford nos cuenta a modo de memorias sus entrañables años de niñez y adolescencia en el seno de tan excéntrica familia. La camaleónica relación que mantenía con cada una de sus hermanas, su enconado desprecio hacia un sistema de educación arcaico, anquilosado y retrógrado que dejaba el progreso académico muy lejos del alcance de las mujeres o su apasionante entrada y posterior ascenso en la escala social inglesa son solo algunos de los temas que Jessica aborda en su libro desde una perspectiva fascinante, irónica y por momentos desternillante. Sin duda, lo mejor de esta maravillosa obra (si bien a partir de la segunda mitad pierde un poco de su lustre inicial) es dejarse hipnotizar por la cadenciosa voz de Jessica Mitford, el arrebatador desparpajo con el que ridiculizaba todo tipo de convenciones y normas de protocolo, y disfrutar con la gran cantidad de experiencias y anécdotas únicas que experimentó en sus primeros años de vida.

  • Eileen
    2019-05-04 23:45

    I have to say I'm rapidly falling prey to Mitford mania, to the point where I've spent the last twenty minutes listing call numbers to check next time I'm at the library (i.e. in a half hour or so). Decca's prose is funny and wry, yet straightforward, making this autobiography approachable and quick. I was actually a little surprised by the short length until I realized she stopped the story at about age twenty; then it made sense. The mix of political/historical content with family relationships and personal development is definitely compelling. I hesitate to say that it "makes 30s Britain/social history/the run-up to WWII feel real," etc., since those have always seemed overwhelmingly real and important to me. Still, seeing the details about this particular very active family gives the situation new context, adding a level of nuance that sharpens my interest.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-13 02:16

    My favorite part about this book was the author's description of her childhood. Her family was delightfully quirky and snobby. I also enjoyed the section about Mitford and her husband selling stockings. However, I did not enjoy most of the parts that involved her relationship with her husband. I have a feeling I would not have liked her husband much. He seemed to have a dilettantish interest in fascism and social justice, and really struck me as being sort of naive and clueless.

  • Maureen S
    2019-05-08 22:32

    Didn't enjoy as much as I'd hoped -- apparently I'm not the biggest Decca fan. So many of her exploits with Esmond made me squirm, and the endless parade of "big names" got old. Perhaps my opinion has been tainted by some previous Mitford reading. The best parts were her reflections on the politics of the time, and her discussion of her sisters, of course. On to Debo's memoir!

  • Alvin
    2019-04-27 02:37

    Hons and Rebles is pure gold for anyone fascinated by mid-20th century anti-fascism or wildly eccentric English aristocrats. If for some demented reason those subjects don't appeal to you, you can still enjoy the book for Mitford's fine prose stylings and first class wit.

  • Robert Spencer
    2019-04-28 06:22

    The best kind of memoir - one whose author can write with real flair and humour, and whose life was truly pretty amazing. I did feel a sense of dislocation in the second half, where Mitford seemed to relegate her role to that as a passenger riding along in the adventures of her husband, Esmond Romilly. Although he was an interesting character too, I enjoyed this section less than her treatment of her childhood and fascinating family. But this is really a wonderful piece of writing.

  • Jaylia3
    2019-05-19 04:28

    Though she was born into a wonderfully eccentric upper class English family, Jessica Mitford was set on escaping--she started a "running away" savings account at Drummond's Bank in London when she was twelve. At nineteen she eloped with her rebel cousin and they ran away together to the Spanish Civil War--an event that was Huge Big News at the time. Two of her sisters were friends with Hitler, and on hearing what Jessica had done even the poster child for evil was scandalized. (Well, that might have had something to do with her communist politics.) It's hard not to be captivated by this memoir--Jessica Mitford stopped at nothing to follow her dreams, and so is simultaneously both inspiring and shocking. She was smart and funny, but seemed to give little thought to how her out of bounds actions and petty larcenies would affect others. Her sisters took issue with some of her facts, and there is a too-good-to-be true quality to parts of the book that's completely forgivable because without them the book wouldn't be as lively or fun. It's maybe telling that, as Jessica reports, her husband regaled some their new American friends with truth-embellished versions of their adventures--to improve the stories, she says. There is a fascinating inner reflection in the last few pages where Jessica admits that though she and her young husband, Esmond Romily, believed they were entirely "self-made", free agents who had totally escaped any taint of their English aristocratic upbringing, their impatience, carefree intransigence, and supreme self-confidence could be easily traced to their backgrounds.Jessica Mitford ends this mainly happy book before her husband dies while fighting in World War Two. The book is also called Hons and Rebels. A great read.

  • Brenda
    2019-05-20 06:32

    I'm in a the midst of another bout of Mitford mania, which is something I come down with every five years or so. Maybe it is because I just finished reading The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate but I did not enjoy Jessica's more realistic take on things in her autobiography Hons and Rebels. Let me rephrase that. I enjoyed the first half of Hons and Rebels decently enough. It was interesting to hear from Jessica's point of view as one of the younger Mitford girls and she did have a different take on things because of her placement in the family. Once Jessica got a bit older and ran off of to fight in the Spanish Civil War with Winston Churchill's nephew things began to go a bit downhill. That was a very odd setence to write, believe me, I know how silly it sounds because it sounds absolutely fascinating. While I do greatly admire Jessica and I probably like her best out of the six of those mad bad Mitfords, her writing in Hons and Rebels lacks a sort of insight that makes the circumstances of her life interesting. To be cliched, nothing jumps off the page and grabs you. And while Jessica is fairly funny, maybe earnest writing pales a bit compared to the sly Nancy. Positives - the perfect title, Jessica's unwavering socialist leanings and position as a "red sheep" in a family with more fascists than average, the fact that it reads a bit like a love letter to her first husband. Negatives - it didn't live up to the hype I imposed on it.

  • Margaret
    2019-04-21 05:27

    Jessica Mitford's sarcastic and witty tone is directed at her own family in her memoir, Hons and Rebels, of her life growing up in aristocratic English family during the 1920's and 30's. Her upbringing, education by governesses, and adventures with her large family (including some very eccentric sisters) are right out of a 19th century novel for girls, or a PBS period drama. At the same time, Jessica is growing up when her parents strongly believe in the old-fashioned perspectives of the English peerage, her sisters Unity and Diana become involved with Fascism, and Jessica's socialist leanings conflict with both. Her family goes through numerous uproars, including when Jessica's older sister Nancy starts publishing her novels including Wigs on the Green, a thinly veiled parody of the Mitford family. Jessica eventually runs away to marry her cousin, who is also the nephew of Winston Churchill, and they move to America and make their way as the war begins. The memoir ends just as World War II is beginning, leaving the reader to find out more about Jessica's postwar career as a muckraking journalist. Mitford's lively and biting prose, as well as her (mis)adventures in her early life, paint a portrait of a society ready to change as well as a family undergoing great upheaval. Her perspective is historically interesting as well as entertaining, and Jessica Mitford is one writer I am very fortunate to have discovered by accident.

  • Josie
    2019-04-29 03:16

    I liked this, but...And I don't know what comes next, just that there is a but. Maybe it would have been better split into two books. The first half, about Decca's childhood, is light-hearted (I just about died when I read her description of giving her father daily palsy practice). The second half is - well, it still has its funny moments, but it's slightly disturbing too. I was actually getting really worried over Decca and Esmond's naivety and their ability to lose money so quickly. The emotional sparsity of it also didn't sit well with me. When I read an autobiography I expect to be sucked into someone's life and not spared any emotional pain, but Decca seems determined to hold the reader at arm's length and not let them into anything too personal. The death of her baby is heartbreaking, but only covers a few paragraphs. Esmond's death is reported as a footnote.Perhaps the most emotional theme in the book is Decca and Unity's growing emnity over the different political parties they support. (Or maybe that's because I empathise with sibling love/rivalry more.) But even that's curiously muted.I guess I would have liked to have been more moved by this.

  • Stephen Goldenberg
    2019-04-27 23:44

    The extended Mitford family are a source of endless fascination and contradictions. Jessica was a lifelong communist while her favourite sister, Unity, was famously a friend and supporter of the Nazis. They shared a bedroom with Jessica's hammer and sickle and posters of Lenin and Stalin covering one wall while Unity's swastika symbol and Hitler and Mussolini posters covered another.For me, this was a book of two halves. The first half covers the Mitfords' childhoods in country houses and London mansions and occasional cruise holidays. It was an enclosed life, educated at home by governesses (Jessica's favourite one gave them lessons in shoplifting), where the girls created their own private language and their own games. The second half, where Jessica and her husband (also her cousin) Esmond Romilly, move to the USA, I found much less interesting. The first half is an insight into a bye gone world where it was possible for Jessica and Esmond to be chased by bailiffs when they lived in a house in London because they did not realise that you had to pay for using gas and electricity.

  • Susan McNally
    2019-05-06 06:28

    Having read The Mitford Sisters some years ago and been recommended to read this I sat down with a great deal of enthusiasm but was disappointed. Perhaps it is the class divide that made this book so annoying and the jolly scrapes these sisters found themselves in, some with mad, bad and fairly dangerous to know types e.g. Adolf Hitler. If they hadn't been upper class and steeped in privilege would we be treat them with the same degree of fascination and would their escapades be interesting at all? It was like reading Bertie Wooster but sadly this was real life for the elite. Perhaps The Mitford Sisters worked because it was a biography and therefore one step removed but reading Jessica's description of her family I found quite chilling. Why didn't her parents do something to stop Unity getting involved with AH and the Nazi party, perhaps because they agreed with the politics. Granted Jessica had a beastly time, what -oh - with a series of personal tragedies but I found it hard to have much sympathy for her early experiences as a bored debutante whilst others in the UK were starving and on the dole. So I am afraid I found it neither funny or a good read!

  • Denise
    2019-05-02 01:40

    I am a mad fan of all things Mitford. This was very different from other books I have read both about them and by them. Jessica seems to rail against her childhood from the start, having a difficult relationship with her father and some of her sisters. Did she lack the irony to understand Nancy? Anyway, she develops into a very unexpected Communist who is in thrall to her daredevil relation, Esmond Romilly. Soon she is running away, right into the centre of the Spanish Civil War, later into American life and politics. Here the couple seem to drift from tiny apartments to uptown dining in the evenings. It is a unique account of pre war politics and the extremes that could lead Jessica to Communism and her sister Unity towards Hitler.