The Mitford Affair: Book summary and reviews of The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict

The Mitford Affair

A Novel

by Marie Benedict

The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict X
The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict
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About this book

Book Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict comes an explosive novel of history's most notorious sisters, one of whom will have to choose: her country or her family?

Between the World Wars, the six Mitford sisters―each more beautiful, brilliant, and eccentric than the next―dominate the English political, literary, and social scenes. Though they've weathered scandals before, the family falls into disarray when Diana divorces her wealthy husband to marry a fascist leader and Unity follows her sister's lead all the way to Munich, inciting rumors that she's become Hitler's mistress.

As the Nazis rise in power, novelist Nancy Mitford grows suspicious of her sisters' constant visits to Germany and the high-ranking fascist company they keep. When she overhears alarming conversations and uncovers disquieting documents, Nancy must make excruciating choices as Great Britain goes to war with Germany.

Probing the torrid political climate in the lead-up to World War II and the ways that seemingly sensible people can be sucked into radical action, The Mitford Affair follows Nancy's valiant efforts to stop the Nazis from taking over Great Britain, and the complicated choices she must make between the personal and the political.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Before reading The Mitford Affair, were you familiar with the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) Mitford sisters? If so, how has your understanding of these eccentric, beautiful, aristocratic sisters changed, if at all?
  2. Nancy is concerned that Diana is considering divorce, particularly because her new partner will not be leaving his own marriage. Why is Nancy so concerned? What is behind Diana's decision?
  3. Unity thinks that the only thing that distinguishes her from her sisters is her awkwardness. What are her strengths? Why don't others notice them?
  4. Nicknames abound among the Mitford sisters. What purposes do these names serve?
  5. What was the appeal of fascist rhetoric for people in Britain, and people like Diana and Unity in ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Mitford Affair:

Before reading The Mitford Affair, were you familiar with the Mitford sisters? If so, how has your understanding of these eccentric, beautiful, aristocratic sisters changed, if at all?
I had seen some mention of some books regarding the Mitford women but had never read of them. I did like Nancy - Unity was very hard to like specially with her like of Hitler - Diane was very full of herself - the mother was no better - - joanw

Did the final chapter make you reassess the chapters attributed to Diana and Unity throughout the book?
I think it was inevitable that Nancy would doubt herself and what she did - it was her family and she loved them very much. And I’m sure she was looking for affirmation, at least the author posed it that way. But I do think Nancy was a stronger... - juliep

Do you agree with Nancy's assessment that "marriage is such a dreadful gamble"?
I agree marriage is a gamble, not necessarily a dreadful one. Marriage is a union between two people who will continue to grow and to change and to face challenges. Will they grow apart or grow together. That is where the work begins. - reene

Do you think Great Britain was justified in imprisoning Diana and Oswald Mosley?
Yes. They committed treason. I believe Diana knew something was going wrong and tried to calm things down before it took over but that didn't work. They had to pay the price of that treason - but I do not also that they should have been able... - joanw

Do you think there is a way to remain loyal to someone without supporting their ideas and ambitions?
Yes, family and friends can coexist with different beliefs. We need to respect differences, However boundaries should be set and it should be made clear that certain behaviors are not acceptable. In the novel, Nancy spent so much time questioning ... - reene

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Benedict delves into the Mitford family's fatal attraction to fascism and Hitler in her captivating latest...This engaging tale of genteel spies shifts easily between the sisters' perspectives and provides timely insight on British fascists and supporters of appeasement. Benedict's silky-smooth page-turner is sure to please her fans." - Publishers Weekly

"Benedicts turns [The Mitfords'] remarkable story into made-for-Masterpiece historical fiction…just try to stop reading." - Booklist

"Captures the mood of a certain element of upper-class England in the years leading up to World War II. Appearances by historical figures like Winston Churchill and Evelyn Waugh round out the story. Fans of World War II historical fiction will be fascinated." - Library Journal

"Timely and suspenseful, The Mitford Affair is an immersive, spellbinding novel that illuminates the terrible allure fascism holds for some, as well as the courage and moral clarity that enable others to resist even when beloved friends and family succumb." - Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Resistance Women

"An in-depth exploration of the complications and bonds of sisterhood. Benedict perfectly captures the anxiety and uncertainty of England's interwar years and serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of enigmatic autocrats. Fast-paced and eye-opening." - Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

"In her latest book The Mitford Affair, Benedict plunges readers into a world of glamorous, charismatic young British debutantes and then turns that shiny world on its head. I was blown away--learning this true story of the Mitford sisters and the roles they played for and against the Nazis was nothing short of astonishing. Benedict delivers with all that readers have come to love and expect from her: nuance, elan, and the most delicious storytelling." - Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post

"Benedict unflinchingly peels away the giddy facade, revealing the tragedy beneath the one-liners in this close look at the Mitfords' darkest hour: the family's embrace of fascism and flirtation with treason in the face of World War II." - Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author

"Marie Benedict brings to life a dark chapter of World War II. Through grit and perseverance, three sisters – each more dazzling and intelligent than the last – work their way into the highest echelons of power. What happens when one no longer recognizes the siblings she was raised with? When caring turns to callousness? When love turns to rivalry? When the only choice is willful blindness or whistleblowing? One woman must decide whether to betray her sister or her country in this meticulously researched page-turner. Masterful." - Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

This information about The Mitford Affair was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Larry

The Human Mind and Heart
As the Psalmist wrote,"the human mind and heart are a mystery." Marie Benedict, in her historical novel The Mitford Affair illustrates this by giving us the possible, and likely in my opinion, thoughts and words of the Mitford family. The author focuses on Diana, and Unity, the two sisters most involved in the fascist movement in Britain before and after WW II. The focus is also on Nancy who is involved in their actions as a concerned sister. Diana becomes infatuated with Oswald Mosley, leader of the movement in Britain. Unity becomes equally mesmerized by Hitler. Nancy reflects on the events in their lives and the effect upon the family and the country. With hesitance and ambivalence Nancy learns the effect it has on her as well, leading her to make difficult moral choices regarding loyalty. As a student of the history of Germany from 1918 to 1945 I was led to the fascist movement in Britain and Oswald Mosley. It was only after reading the letters of Nancy Mitford that I began to develop an interest in the contentious, dysfunctional, aristocratic Mitford family. The Mitfords were no exception to Tolstoy's comment that all unhappy families are so in their own way. I found the words, thoughts and actions of all the Mitfords believable based on my limited knowledge of them through reading works of history, including Nancy's letters. Yet, one never knows for sure because the human mind and heart are a mystery. My readings of the era left me with a limited and factual view of the Mitfords. The author of this novel, however, left me with the understanding that despite their questionable actions and beliefs, the Mitfords were human beings who made choices that led to sad and unfortunate situations for themselves and others. Before reading the novel I saw Nancy as an author of caustic wit, a socialite and just another member of an eccentric family. I finished the novel seeing Nancy in a more positive light. We never know with any certainty why humans make the choices they do or their reasons for them. The question of how one can be drawn into personality cults is a timely one in the 2020s. Politics is highly personal, leading one down roads sometimes and explainable and sometimes not. The novel is a good read, a page-turner and one I highly recommend.

Karna

WW2 Historical Fiction
“The Mitford Affair” tells the story of a British aristocratic family in the years leading up to WWII.

I had not heard of the Mitford family. They are an intriguing, while disturbing, group. I was attracted to the book because of the author. Marie Benedict does an excellent job of researching history and capturing the essence of the culture and time surrounding her subjects.

The Mitfords were related to Winston Churchill’s wife. They were an upper crust, Kardashian type, British family. There were six sisters and one brother. Their home life as children seems dysfunctional by today’s standards. The girls were not allowed formal education and were left on their own to educate themselves. The resulting personalities were unique to say the least. Benedict focuses her storytelling primarily on three of the sisters. Diana was the one most noted for her beauty who had married young to the heir to the Guinness fortune, and shortly thereafter became involved with the leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), and pursued having influence over Hitler. Unity was the odd duck of the family who become overly infatuated with Hitler. Nancy was the most principled of the three, who wrote novels that thinly veiled the nefarious activity of her sisters, and had to ultimately choose between protecting her family and protecting her country.

I would recommend this work to anyone who loves Historical Fiction, anyone intrigued by WWII history, and to book clubs who enjoy discussing human nature.

Susan Roberts

Historical Fiction
The Mitford family was a prominent part of English society in the years between World War I and II. The six sisters were considered the Bright Young Things of their time and they were all outspoken and strong women and were very close. Marie Benedict has written a historical fiction novel about this real family and the scandals that they created as England went to war with Germany.

Even though there were six sisters, the novel predominately focuses on three of them

-Diana was a beautiful woman who was married to the heir of the Guinness fortune She gave up her prominent place in society and divorced her husband to have an affair with the charismatic fascist leader who was still married.
-Unity was the sister who became a Nazi and was rumored to be the mistress of Hitler. She moved to Germany and was enthralled with Hitler and his leadership of Germany. She made no secret of her love of Hitler and his government.
-Nancy was the most normal of the three sisters and despite the fact that they had been close as children, their closeness waned after Diane and Unity became so political. Nancy was a novelist who often poked fun at her sisters and other important people in society in her books. She had some interest in the fascist movement in England but when the war became imminent, she made a choice to support the English government and helped the government when her two sisters were accused of being spies.

The author did extensive research into the sisters and the political climate that existed in England between the two world wars. This is a story about family and the love between sisters but more importantly it's about one sister making a choice between her loyalty to her family and her loyalty for her country.

Rebecca

Women who could change the world
Marie Benedict never fails to find women live in the shadows of great men yet have the power to change or affect history. The Mitford sisters certainly fit this category and Ms. Benedict has recreated their stories in a way that is so fascinating. Diana and Unity, especially, who flirted and dined with Hitler putting even their lives on the line to support him. Even while he threatens their own Homeland. They are a study in what can happen to women who become enthralled with powerful men. My sympathies lied with their sister Nancy who tried to make sense of the insanity surrounding her sisters actions and treason and ultimately had to make a decision to protect her beloved country. This book has definitely inspired me to do more research on these fascinating sisters.

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Author Information

Marie Benedict Author Biography

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator at two of the country's premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in history and art history and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. Marie, the author of The Other Einstein, Carnegie's Maid, The Only Woman in the Room, and Lady Clementine, views herself as an archaeologist of sorts, telling the untold stories of women. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

Author Interview
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