In Tearing Haste
Sitting here, about to write my review of In Tearing Haste, I am trying to figure out how I ended up buying it. I had certainly never heard of it before the day I did, and I bought it on Kindle so I downloaded it somehow without even actually searching for it, I think it came up as a recommended or something and I thought it sounded interesting.
Charting the lengthy correspondence of Deborah, Duchess Of Devonshire and the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor who first met in the 1940s, the letters between them run from 1954-2007, at the time In Tearing Haste went to press they were still corresponding but 'Dear Paddy' died aged 96 in 2011, Deborah, the last surviving of the famous Mitford sisters, still going strong in 2014 aged 94.
Patrick Leigh Fermor was a spy in World War Two, and went on to be a successful travel writer, but though his letters are the more erudite and lengthy, I did find myself less interested in his travelogues and such like then I was in the high society hilarity dashed off with no particular care by 'Darling Debo'
Debo's life is one to marvel at, really and truly. Her letters include reference to 'Dear Evie' and how he sent her a copy of his latest book which he 'felt sure' would not offend her this time. 'Dear Evie' was Evelyn Waugh, and the copy he sent her blank.
On another much later occasion she is at dinner with Jon Snow (Channel 4 News) and when he gets a phonecall at dinner they all 'presume Blair has gone and started another war'.
She attended JFK's inauguration, was devastated by his death, and travelled to his funeral on a private plane with the Prime Minister and 'the D of E'.
Quite early on in the correspondence she recounts being forced to chat to "Cake" and saying loudly "Oh Dear, now I'm stuck" - later she sits in pride of place at Cake's funeral and 'can't think why'.
Cake, for reasons which are never made clear is what the Mitford Sisters called The Queen Mother.
She refers to both her homes, one being Chatsworth, the other
being Lismore Castle as 'the dump' without the merest hint of irony. She
is quite consistently a hoot.
On the strength of Debo alone, and through the references she makes to her sisters, I've gone and downloaded, The Mitfords : Letters Between Six Sisters. Already, it is absolutely brilliant. Debo herself would probably be scandalized that I found her the star of this show and never quite took to PLF, but the little glimpses of bygone days are quite wonderful. We find out for example through Debo's potted biography that PLF was expelled from school. Why? Because he held hands with a greengrocer's daughter in public! SCANDALOUS!
I find all this fascinating and can't wait to read all the quaint historical moments of the lives of all sisters. Also I simply must know all there is to know about Sybil Cholmondeley who sounds like a proper ledge.