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Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford
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Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  158 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Admirers and detractors use the same words to describe Jessica Mitford: subversive, muckraker, mischief-maker. But those who knew her best simply called her Decca. Born into one of Britain’s most famous aristocratic families, at the age of nineteen she ran away with Winston Churchill’s nephew. Their elopement severed ties with her privilege, a rupture only exacerbated by ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Counterpoint (first published January 1st 2010)
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Audra (Unabridged Chick)
In a high school journalism class, I read some excerpts from Jessica Mitford's amazing book The American Way of Death, an expose and exploration of the American funeral business (her book was said to have influenced Robert F. Kennedy's coffin choice for his brother). It was much later that I learned this Mitford was related to that other Mitford I knew, Nancy.

Born in 1917, Jessica was the sixth of seven children born to an English baron and his wife. Jessica's childhood was influenced by the pri
I wish I could give this more stars, but I wasn't all that impressed by it. Brody seems to have done her homework and offers many quotations from Decca herself and from friends and families, but the book is all just narrative, offering little analysis of Decca's thoughts or actions: not what I look for in a biography. She tries for a clever, witty tone, appropriate to such a witty subject, but I found it self-conscious and annoying. This, for example:

"Suddenly, [Decca and her first husband, Esmo
Richard Derus
The Book Report: A chronological retelling of the strange life and exciting times of America's finest 20th-century muckraker, from her aristocratic Fascist upbringing to her time in the Communist Party USA, then her years of fame and glory after writing The American Way of Death, her most lasting contribution to literature. Her heartbreaking family life is presented with as many warts as can be expected; her relationships with her equally famous sisters Nancy Mitford, Lady Diana Mosley, Her ...more
I received this book through the giveaway program here at Good Reads. I especially appreciate this program because it introduced me to a wonderful book about a woman that I knew very little about.

I was aware that Jessica Mitford was a writer, whose book, The American Way of Death, had caused a great deal of fuss when it was published. I also knew that Jessica Mitford was somehow related to Nancy Mitford and they had several other famous or infamous relatives. My sense of history is not too well
Feb 23, 2011 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-read
A Mitford book, how could I resist? This isn't a very satisfactory one, however. No sparkle, no insight, workmanlike prose, and sufficient errors of the type that cast doubt on the quality of the research (just as an example, the author thinks Evelyn Waugh converted later in life; he was 27). Still, it fills out the picture of Decca's later years; however, I'd go to the source rather than read this.
Amy Lignor
Sep 24, 2011 Amy Lignor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jessica Mitford (called "Decca" by family and friends) was the sixth of seven children born to David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron of Redesdale and wife Sydney. She grew up a very privileged child in a series of country houses in England. She didn't have much of a formal education as her mother did not believe in sending girls off to school but, Decca was a dedicated reader. Two of her sisters, Unity and Diana were well known English supporters of Adolf Hitler and her father and mother claimed to ...more
Oct 20, 2010 Jaylia3 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A welcome book, long overdue. Besides her own memoirs, which are limited in scope, we could only catch glimpses of Jessica in earlier books that are more about her sisters. Jessica is fascinating, a droll gadfly and jester who used her wits and endless energy to promote civil rights, uncover corruption and generally help the downtrodden, but even into adulthood latent communist sentiments meant she didn’t mind stealing—jiggery pokery she called it—from people or institutions she felt had more ...more
Dec 20, 2011 Nicholas rated it liked it
I am as devoted to the Mitfords as anyone, but I found this biography a little boring. As much as I agree with Jessica Mitford's politics more than any of her sisters (and certainly more than Unity, who was friends with Hitler, or Diana, who married the British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley), Decca in this telling also comes off as pretty insufferable at times. Of course one does not have to like the subject of a biography in order to like the biography, but this account of Mitford's life is ...more
Feb 15, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I waited to finish reading The Sisters about all the Mitford daughters before I completed this biogrphy of Jessica, who was certainly my favorite of the clan. Despite an aristocratic English upbringing, she ran away to join the International Brigade to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War with the man who was to be her first husband; after his death in WW II joined the Communist Party, became an American citizen and married a Harvard-educated lawyer(his was the law firm that gave Hillary ...more
Kat Warren
Jan 20, 2011 Kat Warren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

Yesterday I slurped up Leslie Brody's "Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford." Splendid, superb, brilliant.

There's much that can go wrong with biography: too much detail, not enough detail, inability to detect unappealing attributes in the subject, tendency to over-focus on subject's unappealing attributes; lack of professional notes and sourcing and more. Brody is just right: not too much, not too little, well balanced, impeccably sourced notes, and most important: she's a delici
Aug 15, 2011 Pamela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm fascinated by the Mitford family--they're all such strong personalities, and Jessica definitely was one of the strongest. I read this last year, along with their book of letters--that's one I'll definitely read again and again. Their relationships are so complex, none more so than those between Jessica and her sisters. She was definitely a rebel--left home to elope with her cousin and ended up living in America the majority of her adult life. I would have loved knowing her--Irrepressible is ...more
Dana Burgess
Oct 17, 2011 Dana Burgess rated it really liked it
Confession time - before I was introduced to this book, I had no idea who Jessica Mitford was. Having read the book, I am sad I have spent so long without knowing her. What an interesting, energetic and involved character she was! Leslie Brody has done an amazing job of capturing Jessica (or Decca, as she was called). There is nothing dry or boring about either the woman or the book. This biography is well written, easy to follow and read, and interesting. There are also pictures. I happen to ...more
Nancy Spiller
Oct 27, 2013 Nancy Spiller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
For me, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 60s and 70s, Jessica Mitford was a goddess of smart, scathingly funny yet solid journalism, daring to illuminate the foolishness and hypocrisy to be found in the conventions of American life. Her expose of the funeral industry and her collection titled "Poison Penmanship" have been a lifelong inspiration to me as a journalist and author. That she is hardly known today is criminal. That Leslie Brody wrote this wonderful biography of her is a ...more
Richard Thomas
Aug 29, 2015 Richard Thomas rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I was a little disappointed by the book. It covers the ground well and describes what was by any account a fascinating life and perhaps this is where my reservations lie. The book describes but does not really analyse or explain how and why someone brought up in privilege grew to resist and resent this. There is much to understand for example in how and why a childish stance of resistance to what an older sister did and believed developed into a genuine and thorough going radicalism.
May 21, 2012 K rated it it was amazing
I think Jessica has taken Nancy's place as my favorite Mitford sister. This biography reads like a novel, with the heroine of the story being so much more colorful and interesting than I could have imagined. I loved reading about her adventures and was so happy to know she took such a leading role in certain events that have changed the course of history in this country.
Very interesting biography of Jessica Mitford. I have read several books about the Mitfords but Jessica is usually covered in just a few paragraphs: she ran away to fight in the Spanish Civil War, she was a communist and moved to America. While all of that is correct, there is a lot more to her story.
Maureen Flatley
Apr 05, 2011 Maureen Flatley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been fascinated by the Mitford sisters for years. This is a great biography about Jessica, who wrote the ground breaking expose of the funeral industry, The American Way of Death, a book that created the genre of exposes and literally changed the landscape of American public policy and consumer protection in America.
Jun 09, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
Jessica Mitford is my personal hero, and I'm pretty indulgent of anyone else who feels the same (as this author clearly does). I loved gleaning more details of Jessica's life from this breezy, chatty biography, and I'll happily give it a pass on its somewhat book-report-ish tone and the spottiness of the later chapters.
Cynthia Kane
Apr 08, 2011 Cynthia Kane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book - the Mitford sisters are fascinating and I have been drawn to Jessica Mitford, her politics and her pluck for a long time. But as a resident now of the Bay Area and in particular Oakland, her story and that of husband, Bob Treuhaft and her children resonated highly.
It's a quick and energetic read and I thank the author greatly for this insightful and delightful biography.
Sep 29, 2010 Alisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book lives up to its subject! Mitford was a muckraker, a raconteur (raconteuse?), and a total party-girl of the party. There will doubtless be scholarly biographies galore within the next few years that will turn her into some kind of mouthpiece for something or other, but this one accesses the essence of a woman who lived in the moment. Mitford was great good company, and so is this book.
Jul 18, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating woman from a fascinating family. Decca is my favorite Mitford girl, and this very readable biography does an excellent job of revealing this recovered aristocrat, communist activist, writer, and mother as an independed individual rather than yet another cog in the Mitford Empire.
May 26, 2013 Maggie rated it liked it
As a newly minted Mitford fan, this biography was badly written and underwhelming until getting to the settled part of Decca's life, where she and her husband were politically active as Communists and social rights activists. The writing smoothed out and was much less awkward at this point, and the sheer amount of living Decca did took over the narrative. I enjoyed the second half very much.
This biography is well written and interesting. Despite these attributed, however, my attention waned. I'd had no previous knowledge of Jessica Mitford and I didn't feel the need to plow through to learn more. I gave it a whirl based on a positive review of the book.
Sigrid Ellis
An engaging biography of Jessica "Decca" Mitford's life. Since her life was incredibly interesting, there's a lot that goes by quickly. Much as, I suspect, Decca would have experienced it herself.
Diane Swiben
May 24, 2012 Diane Swiben rated it really liked it
I'm with another reviewer on this one. Just take a look of the picture in the book of Jessica Mitford as a child and that picture says it all! I enjoyed the writer's style and loved reading about one gutsy woman!
Benjamin Lettuce Treuhaft
It is all about my mommy and daddy. It is quirky but a spectacularly told story. You should be so lucky as to have Leslie Brody write a book about yours.
Anna Backman Rogers
Anna Backman Rogers rated it it was amazing
Apr 14, 2015
Riona rated it really liked it
Nov 21, 2010
Erin Hill goldie
Erin Hill goldie rated it it was amazing
Jun 26, 2013
Connie rated it really liked it
Jun 07, 2012
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Tenement Talk with Leslie Brody 2 8 Sep 24, 2011 05:05PM  
  • Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler's Angel
  • Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
  • Nancy Mitford: A Biography
  • The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London
  • Nancy Mitford
  • The Duchess of Windsor and Other Friends
  • In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Love from Nancy
  • Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
  • Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation
  • The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh
  • The House of Mitford
  • Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life
  • Muriel Spark: The Biography
  • James Joyce
Born in the Bronx, New York, Leslie Brody left home at the age of 17 to become an underground press reporter for the Berkeley Tribe. A year later, she set off to travel around Europe. From 1971-1976, Brody lived in London and Amsterdam, sampling various hippie occupations. She returned to California in the late 70s and worked as a librarian both at the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, ...more
More about Leslie Brody...

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