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A Life of Contrasts: The Autobiography

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  215 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
'Beautifully written.' Valerie Grove, The Times 'Martini-dry wit.' Irish Times 'Often pure Wodehouse.' Financial Times 'Uncompromising.' A.N. Wilson, Sunday Telegraph 'It has all her charm.' Laura Thompson, A Good Read, BBC Radio 4 'Brilliant.' Evening Standard 'A Life of Contrasts is a candid, page-turning memoir, written by a woman who will--without any doubt--be viewed ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Gibson Square Books (first published 1977)
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Like many people I'm totally intrigued by the Mitfords, a wonderfully eccentric family. I have read and loved Hons and Rebels, other biographies of the family and a few of Nancy Mitford's novels. This however, was a disappointment. Knowing Diana's background I wanted to read this with a very open mind but I couldn't help disliking her. Even if you ignore her political leanings she comes across as spoilt, snobbish, deluded and obnoxious. That doesn't make the book bad though, what makes it bad is ...more
Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
*Special Content only on my blog, Strange and Random Happenstance during Mitford March Mach Deux (March 2014)

Diana Mitford felt stifled in her life with her family. When she went to Paris she got a sense of the enormity of the world and how she was admired for her beauty and wit. As soon as she could she made a prosperous marriage to the heir of the Guinness fortune and started her life surrounded by artists and poets and writers to fill the void she felt in her life. Yet this wasn't her true ca
Jul 17, 2010 Laurie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have a morbid fascination with Diana Mitford Mosley. She was one of the most hated women in Britain in her lifetime, not because she was an unrepentant Fascist, but that she could not admit that her cause was inherently in error. I suppose that is what got hold of me: she was a celebrated beauty who married into great wealth, and then when her children were very young, she left everything for Oswald Mosley, who started the Britain Union of Fascists (BUF). She was married in Germany at the home ...more
Jan 08, 2010 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read Anne de Courcy's biography of Diana I really wanted to read about her life in her own words. It was an interesting read - she was a very witty writer and obviously had a fascinating life, but I found it difficult to read in parts as she was always totally unrepentant about her fascism. She admits that the she didn't agree with people being killed in concentration camps but glosses over it by saying that, of course, the Russians did far worse and even the British had concentration cam ...more
Jan 13, 2011 Veronica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, found
hmmm. The Mitfords were a fascinating family. I've read both Nancy and Jessica's more or less fictionalised accounts of their childhood, so when I found this book, I thought it might be interesting to see what their infamously pro-Nazi sister had to say. She was both beautiful and intelligent, and it started out with the trademark Mitford sarcastic wit about upper-class life in pre-war Britain. But as Hugh Thomas said in his review it's quite disconcerting when "the characters in a witty narrati ...more
Catherine Yarwood
The book takes you through the entirety of Diana’s life - from pre-WW1 nursery room to living in Paris post- 9/11. I think the book was re-released with an extra chapter or two written in 2001/2002. She died shortly afterwards. She is brought up in the countryside with her 5 sisters and 1 brother. We see her go through an early marriage, which ends when she meets the love of her life Sir Oswald Mosely. She goes to pre-war Germany and has a social relationship with Hitler and other prominent Nazi ...more
Mimi Pond
If you are as fascinated with the fabulous Mitford sisters as I am, this is a must-read. Unfortunately, what you must learn is Diana is an unrepentant fascist and anti-semite who rationalizes it all in the most absurd fashion. It does round out the canon of books on the way or another!
Megan Farr
Jun 17, 2011 Megan Farr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find the Mitfords kinds of fascinating - Diana particularly (though Unity more, but she never wrote). This is interesting for her place at the sidelines of history and also for the astonishing lack of repentence. She clearly still believed not only Mosley was right but also Hitler.
Mar 09, 2015 Deb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like so many find the Mitford sisters diverse and fascinating so when I saw this book in a secondhand shop I couldn't pass it up. Diana was considered to by many at the time to be the most attractive and desirable of her sisters in their social set. I agree with other readers that there is "none so blind as do not want to see" element in the book by her selective omission of information and denial about a dreadful and very dark period in history. Amazing that she gave up a life of wealth havin ...more
Apr 19, 2014 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating stuff. The last Mitford book of any significance left for me, & reveals Diana to be perhaps the most interesting - but far from the most likeable (I think Debo gets that nod) - of the sisters. Too many unfamiliar names, & the French & German needed translations (certainly the German for me), & she really is completely unrepentant. World Jewry should have sorted the Jews out, what were the Germans supposed to do?! Hitler was simply charming! I listened to her Desert Is ...more
Lynette Twaddle
An interesting if rather troubling read. Feel I now need to read a biography of her... A bit like Lawrence of Arabia.

Dec 06, 2014 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this one, although I thoroughly enjoyed it.
First of all, I totally underestimated how shocking it would be to read the memoirs of an almost completely unapologetic nazi, although that makes it that much more interesting.
The problem I see is that this book completely lacks the self-reflection that makes an autobiography good. The style is very matter of fact, pretty much a description of events without pause. However, Diana's life was so fascinating that it alone makes
Dec 07, 2014 Maryanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
often portrayed as an aristocratic nobody by those who do not always read with open minds,this very brief tour through her life is thought provoking and very much an emotional journey.
Diana was cursed or blessed with a face that was beautiful as it was serene............Mosely her second husband loved her for her completeness and her strength when the chips were down.She never wavers from her beliefs and talks of the Hitler that few knew .......I enjoyed this book very much and feel it is worth
Sep 13, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mitford-reads
Well-written and unapologetic.
Erik Graff
Dec 02, 2012 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mosley & Mitford fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
I hadn't known that Diana Mitford had written an autobiography until I saw this volume at the Amarynth Bookstore in Evanston, Illinois. Being interested in the mentality of fascists and Nazis, I picked it up and read it immediately.

Mitford came from a background of wealth and aristocratic connections. Reaching out, as she did as a young woman, to Hitler and his circle was quite a stretch from her usual associations, a stretch not very well accounted for in this book except in that Hitler was ver
Jun 19, 2015 Elyse rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Things in life are all about perspective. Before reading this, I had no idea who Diana Mitford was and frankly after reading this I'm still not sure if I do. I know who she is in the historical sense, but as a person not so much. I don't know if she really figured out who she was beyond her traditional female roles...mother & wife. I've read other reviews of this book & most are negative in that she didn't show any remorse for her actions. And I can see how easy it is for individuals to ...more
Dec 03, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm fascinated by the Mitford sisters - children of a minor British peer, they all led remarkable exciting lives rubbing shoulders with royalty, the fashionable and wealthy, and politicians of very different stripes. But most importantly to me, educated at home by governesses, several of them became talented writers. I would love to know how this happened!
I took ages to read this as the author annoyed me so much. Constantly harping on about how poor her family were, what a nice man Hitler was, and how terrible it was that saving the life of a servant during a house fire cost her some paintings. I really did try, but by two-thirds through was skimming and talking back to her. Could be interesting to some as a study of the idiocy of the upper classes, but I felt I'd waster my time.
Jun 25, 2014 Renato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite her controversial political stands, Diana's writing is very elegant. She is a very warm person, and totally devoted to her family and friends. I recommend this to anyone interested in the Mitford family or in the 1930's.
I think Diana was Nancy's equal as far as delightful prose goes. She presents fair and respectful portraits of her friends and acquaintances over the years, including some of the most publically reviled personalities of the twentieth century.

I think she does essays better than whole books, though. See also: The Pursuit of Laughter, for some of her collected essays and reviews.

A must-read for those interested in the Mitfords, Hitler, Oswald Mosley, the Second World War and the British aristocrac
Luba Ruzhnikov
Jul 11, 2015 Luba Ruzhnikov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Women from different planet

Remarkable interpretations of england during her time. All her observation is from d

Very interesting interpretation of her time from different angles.

Diana was the Mitford sister who married a British Fascist and was imprisoned during WWII so it was interesting, and sometimes eye-opening, to read her take on her life and the history of the last century. She had a unique vantage point because she was related to Churchill and knew Hitler--and a late chapter in the book describs the many ways she believed they were alike. Reading her sister Nancy's books I was happily infected with her determined love of life. Though there are enjoyable parts of ...more
Gwyn Bailey
Jul 15, 2009 Gwyn Bailey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I had already reviewed this book so sorry if this is a duplicate. It is the last in a series about of books about the Mitford sisters that I have read this summer and it is definitely the worst. It should show as being authored by Diana Mosley as Diana Mitford married first Bryan Guiness and then Sir Oswald Moseley. It was written in 1977 and deals with her life up until that point but skates over her relationships with Hitler and various controversial political associations in a very ...more
Keegan Chopin
Jul 28, 2014 Keegan Chopin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Annoying, self-serving and devoid of any self-awareness or inner-reflection.
Sep 28, 2008 Maura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating family, the Mitfords - so many strong and varied personalities. Diana was personally acquainted with Hitler and I was always curious to hear her side of that, since anything else I'd read about them concentrated on her sister Unity's close friendship with Hitler. As I read her story, I was getting the real version of events and people that her sister Nancy immortalized in her books "The Pursuit of Love" and "Love in a Cold Climate".
Dec 09, 2014 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
The unrepentant fascist Diana was never my favourite Mitford girl (team Decca), and some of this makes for uncomfortable reading ("the blacks" shouldn't have come to the UK, the Jews should have stayed out of Germany etc) but its still an interesting read.
Geoffrey Rose
An interesting read for anyone interested in the Mitfords but her unrepentant fascism and her mendacious read of history - a world in which the 1945 Atlee government is seemingly characterized as more oppressive than Hitler's Germany - make this a difficult and at times infuriating read.
Oct 17, 2013 Marta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Words fail me. I am really not aware of half of what she says, what with all the unexplained name-dropping and the shallowness and the unbelievable lack of self-criticism, but what a book. I'm shocked, and amazed, and glad it's over. So, life includes such lives. Who knew.
Dec 04, 2011 Chiara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Def not as good of a writer as decca or even Debo, and her excuses for hitler are pretty unpalatable. Still an interesting read, as someone who was BFF with Evelyn waugh, Lytton strachey, etc etc
Cathal Rm
Mostly vague, but amusing and witty. No mention of her rift with her sister Jessica. Skims over major events in a nonchalant way.
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The Mitford sisters 1 7 Jul 15, 2009 12:48PM  
  • Nancy Mitford: A Biography
  • A Talent To Annoy
  • The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh
  • Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
  • Nancy Mitford
  • Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler's Angel
  • In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford
  • The House of Mitford
  • A Curious Career
  • The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London

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