Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

Jessica Mitford was born in a family of eccentric aristocrats in England related to Winston Churchill. Two of her sisters, Unity and Diana, became famous after they befriended Hitler during the 1930’s. Diana even married Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists. Another, Nancy, was a famous writer. Despite her background, Jessica embraced communism at a very young age and eloped with her cousin, whom she married, to fight with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. She later went to live in America, where she later took part in the civil rights movement. Hons and Rebels is her autobiography, in which she recalls the first part of her life. It’s extremely interesting, very well-written and often funny as hell. Here is a passage from the book, which I think is hilarious:

[An English Lord she and her husband met in the boat that took them to the US] was directly in front of me, and I watched him filling out the long form required of tourists. The burly, sour-faced immigration officer read it through, pointing with his finger in the style of one accustomed to reading. Coming to ‘Occupation – Peer of the Realm’, the officer crossed out this answer and wrote in ‘Nil’.

If you like autobiographies, history and politics, you will probably love it. I also recommend Diana’s memoirs, A Life of Contrasts, which is quite possibly even better. Diana was the friend of many artists and writers during the 1930’s and was also famous for her beauty. This book is not only very pleasant to read, it’s also a reminder that, before the war broke out in 1939, many among the British aristocracy weren’t hostile to fascism. Her husband’s autobiography, My Life, is also worth reading. It’s a very interesting document about a part of history that is not very well known.

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