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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
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Sep 2023, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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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.

Chapter One
Nancy

July 7, 1932
London, England

The mellifluous sounds of the symphony float throughout the ballroom. Servants pour golden champagne into the cut-­crystal glasses. The fabled Cheyne Walk house exudes perfection down to the last detail, nowhere more than in its hostess.

There, at the center of the vast ballroom, stands the stunning, statuesque figure in a floor-­length sheath of platinum silk, a shade that echoes her silvery-blue eyes. Her diamond-­laden arms outstretched in welcome to her guests, she radiates serenity and unflappable, irresistible poise. If she were anyone else—­someone I didn't know as intimately as I know myself—­I would judge that sphinxlike smile a charade. Or worse. But I know she is precisely as she appears, because she is Diana, my sister.

I wrest my eyes from her and glance around the gleaming gilt and marble ballroom, expansive enough to easily hold the three hundred guests in attendance. As the dancers ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will 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 ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Mitford Affair.
You can see the full discussion here.


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 was familiar with Nancy as I've read a few of her books. In the book, Widowhood, which I reviewed here, the Mitford sisters come into play a little bit. I also read about Unity in another book. I liked the fact that Benedict touches on the ... - scgirl

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?
Absolutely! I was a little surprised there was no allowance for an upcoming trial but there was definite evidence that treason had been committed or intended. My only regret was that they let them be jailed together & that they eventually ... - tsquared

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

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Marie Benedict demonstrates the pre-war time period's complexity remarkably well. We tend to think of Allied countries as uniformly anti-fascist, but the author really brings home the fact that the political landscape was nowhere near that simple. In clear prose that rotates among the three Mitford sisters' points of view, she brings this multi-faceted era to life. It's a fascinating slice of history...continued

Full Review (595 words)

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

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

Library Journal
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.

Publishers Weekly
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.

Author Blurb Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post
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.

Author Blurb Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace
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.

Author Blurb Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library
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.

Author Blurb Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Resistance Women
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.

Author Blurb Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author
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.

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More
Jean

An interesting perspective
I have long been intrigued by the Mitford sisters, who turned out so very differently. This novel is an interesting look at a period of time when things could have gone in many different directions, as illustrated by the very diverse trajectories ...   Read More
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...   Read More
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...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Fascism in Pre-War England

In Marie Benedict's historical novel The Mitford Affair, much of the narrative focuses on the rise of fascism in Great Britain before World War II.

Merriam-Webster defines fascism as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime…that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition." Today, in the context of WWII, most think primarily of fascism in Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy, but in fact the movement had its advocates in other countries as well, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

The years after World War I saw ...

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