Monday, December 19, 2011

Hons and Rebels

By Jessica Mitford

Born in 1917, Jessica tells the story of her growing up years as the daughter of British lord, Baron Redesdale. From what she says, Jessica was not a particularly happy child. Hers was a large family, she had several sisters and a brother and perhaps Jessica got lost in the shuffle. Living in what she felt was a kind of isolation, she longed to go to school but her parents insisted on her being educated at home, although she didn't learn much beyond proper English and French, as those where just about the only subjects deemed relevant for the education of an upper class female. She was not taught anything practical, like how to take care of a home or family, since it was assumed she would marry into her own class and those things would be provided by servants.
But Jessica was not interested in society boys. Early in her life, Jessica developed a social conscience when she became troubled by the differences between how she lived and how most other people lived. She felt the best way to equalize that difference was through Communism and she became an ardent supporter of the Communist cause. But her parents and her sisters were at the opposite end, politically, in that they supported the British Union of Fascists and were fans of Adolph Hitler.
Eventually Jessica ran away from home with her cousin, Esmond Romilly, who had fought in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. (Romilly was the nephew of Winston Churchill.) Esmond was planning to rejoin his comrades in the Spanish Civil War and Jessica wanted to be involved. But it didn't work out, and pressure from Jessica's family pretty much forced them to get married and return to Britain.

This was an OK book. I can't say that I cared much for Jessica's family, in that they were Jew-hating fascists and supporters of Hitler. Nor did I care for Jessica's politics, not being a fan of Communism myself. I didn't know about her family's shocking history when I started reading the book and when I did find out, it really put me off the whole book. It's probably not a reasonable attitude but that's how I felt.

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