Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford

Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford
Leslie Brody
Reviewed by Sarah Thickett
Perseus
Thu, 27/10/2011
9781582437675
£14.99

Jessica ‘Decca’ Mitford, sixth of the seven Mitford children, had several very famous sisters: Diana Moseley, authoress Nancy Mitford, Unity Mitford and Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire. Yet, as Leslie Brody’s excellent biography, Irrepressible, demonstrates, Decca herself ought to be equally lauded for her radical politics, her incredible determination and her later work as a journalist.

Born in 1917 to Baron David and Lady Sydney Redesdale, Decca grew up in the idyllic English countryside. From the outset, however, she was desperate to escape the stuffiness of the British class system and the highly privileged but claustrophobic Mitford household. At nineteen, she met Churchill’s nephew, Esmond Romilly, and together they tried to elope to fight fascism in Spain. Thus begins Decca’s remarkable life, which was spent in London, Scotland and eventually America.

Irrepressible gives a very well researched account of Decca’s life, particularly of her time in the United States, and Brody’s prose is unfailingly fluid. Whilst not a huge amount of space is devoted to Decca’s childhood, the sections on her time in America and especially her later reconciliation with her sisters and mother are beautifully drawn out. The Mitford sisters surely provide all a biographer can hope for in terms of subject matter but it is a real art to condense so many events and historical figures successfully. May Decca now be remembered as often as her other sisters for her wit, her resolve in the face of hardship and her later work as an investigative journalist.
 

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