There are excellent biographies of Nancy Mitford (1904-73), but Laura Thompson’s sparkling study is the gold standard ... This elegant and incisive life does full justice to her astringent humor, her undeluded authorial voice and her championing of 'the pursuit of small-scale human happiness' over some of the 20th century’s worst abstractions.
If anything can swing opinion away from what Thompson calls 'the po- faced brigade' of Nancy-haters, it will be this shrewd, passionate book. A warning, though; it has an irritating stylistic tic ... why, dear Miss Thompson (she uses this form of address herself, unfortunately), do you have to keep dropping into schoolgirl colloquial? ... Lapses of style apart, the book is a gem: fresh, intelligent and assured, and moving in its appreciation of the heroic lightheartedness with which Nancy confronted a grim and, in its final stages, agonising life ... Magnificent in her account of Nancy’s last years, in the hideous home in Versailles where she grew touchingly concerned about a tortoise, Thompson is best at separating fiction from life.
Laura Thompson...vividly evokes the swarm of brilliant and beautiful sisters, and their lone brother, growing up carefree in a succession of country houses in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire ... The politics of the Mitford sisters followed their romantic attachments, in Thompson’s patronizing view ... A stylish and well-informed writer, Thompson brings a snobbishness of her own to her sympathetic account of Mitford’s life. One’s heart sinks with every mention of 'nowadays,' a sure signal that a reactionary opinion is about to be aired ... It’s a relief to return to Mitford’s less heavy-handed opinions.