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Nancy Mitford. The Lady Of Rue Monsieur (Nancy Mitford. La dame de la rue Monsieur)

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Original Language: French | 250 pp. | January 2019

2 Seas Represents: World excl French rights

BIOGRAPHY | HISTORY

Enriched with hitherto unpublished testimonies, this biography of Nancy Mitford plunges us into the intellectual and artistic hub of Paris in the 1950s and 1960s.

English aristocrats related to Winston Churchill and  Lord & Lady Redesdale gave their six daughters, the eldest being Nancy, and their one son, a childhood of dreams. But the two world wars came to destroy the bliss of the Victorian era and the Mitford girls would become the subject of gossip. One of the sisters, Unity, became fascinated by Hitler and was even known as the Fuhrer’s English girl, while another, Jessica, a communist, was involved with the Spanish Republicans. As for Nancy, she didn’t hesitate to report her youngest sister, Diana, who was the wife to the leader of the English fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley. Only Deborah and Pamela lived in allegiance to keeping their social status.

From this extraordinary family saga, Nancy Mitford imbues her scathing wit into the very substance of her bestselling novels. Wit that she also applied to her love life, which, like her most famous novel, became an endless pursuit of love. That is, the love of General de Gaulle’s right-hand man, the diplomat Gaston Palewski, an incorrigible ladies’ man who stubbornly refused to make their relationship official.

Thanks to hitherto unpublished testimonies from two of the Mitford sisters, Jean-Noël Liaut casts new light on the story of Nancy Mitford. Transporting us to rue Monsieur, where Nancy’s salon was one of the spiritual hubs of 1950’s Paris, he presents a plethora of anecdotes, jokes, unusual situations and extraordinary characters, all part of the “Mitford spirit”.

Jean-Noël Liaut is a writer and translator. He is the author of several biographies, including Elsa Triolet et Lili Brik, les sœurs insoumises, which was awarded the Académie française historical biography prize in 2015. His latest biography is Elle, Edmonde (Allary Editions, January 2017).