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“Decca” Mitford lived a larger-than-life life: born into the British aristocracy—one of the famous (and sometimes infamous) Mitford sisters—she ran away to Spain during the Spanish Civil War with her cousin Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill’s nephew, then came to America, became a tireless political activist and a member of the Communist Party, and embarked on a brilliant career as a memoirist and muckraking journalist (her funeral-industry exposé, The American Way of Death, became an instant classic). She was a celebrated wit, a charmer, and throughout her life a prolific and passionate writer of letters—now gathered here.
Decca’s correspondence crackles with irreverent humor and mischief, and with acute insight into human behavior (and misbehavior) that attests to her generous experience of the worlds of politics, the arts, journalism, publishing, and high and low society. Here is correspondence with everyone from Katharine Graham and George Jackson, Betty Friedan, Miss Manners, Julie Andrews, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, and Hillary Rodham Clinton to Decca’s sisters the Duchess of Devonshire and the novelist Nancy Mitford, her parents, her husbands, her children, and her grandchildren.
In a profile of J.K. Rowling, The Daily Telegraph (UK), said, “Her favorite drink is gin and tonic, her least favorite food, trip. Her heroine is Jessica Mitford.”
Best known for her classic funeral-industry expos , The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford (1917 1996) was fifth of the famous Mitford sisters, but rebelled against her privileged English roots to become a member of the American Communist Party and union organizer, a civil rights activist and a celebrated investigative journalist. Sussman, a former longtime editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, has gathered an array of letters that capture Mitford's legendary wit, warmth and self-deprecating humor: decades of exuberant and sometimes sparring correspondence with friends, including civil rights activists Virginia and Clifford Durr, publisher Katharine Graham, journalist Shana Alexander, writers Kay Boyle and Maya Angelou. Mitford's prickly relations with her aristocratic clan are much in evidence, as is her estrangement from its fascist members; writing to Winston Churchill in 1943, she unswervingly protests the release from prison of her sister Diana Mosley and Diana's husband, the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley. Relating her bold emigration to the United States with her cousin and first husband, Communist journalist Esmond Romilly; her resilience as a war widow in a foreign country with an infant daughter; and the evident happiness of her 50-year marriage to her second husband, radical labor attorney Robert Treuhaft, Mitford's letters crackle with wit and mordant observations. 59 illus.