This always seems a bit of an odd book to have read: to be honest title doesn't help, especially when you borrow it from the library. However, once yo...moreThis always seems a bit of an odd book to have read: to be honest title doesn't help, especially when you borrow it from the library. However, once you have mastered your blushes and borrowed/brought your copy be prepared for an interesting read.
While the book p reports from its title to look at sex through time, it begins with recorded time, with the middle ages and other earlier periods opening the main argument of the book, lumped into the same period. Here we see the small mindedness of religions, mixed in some cases with its usual mix of hypocrisy (that is right, shock, Victorians didn't invent that!) moving on to the Tudor period and onto the period of the enlightenment, where it seems, fittingly enough, that attitudes really begin to change, although not entirely.
I think one of my favorite parts was how you had c18th ladies of ill-repute had pamphlets and stage shows, had their image sold... and we talk about reality TV stars and Playboy bunnies as being a new curse on the morals of society, where as it is all, as Dame Shirley of Bassey tells us, 'all just a little bit of history repeating...'
An illuminating study that shows how far we have come, but how far we have still yet to go...(less)
Hmm, so I find the Mitfords absolutely fascinating and I felt that, having read Mary Lovell's family biogr...more*Warning folks- spoilerage contained within*
Hmm, so I find the Mitfords absolutely fascinating and I felt that, having read Mary Lovell's family biography and moving on the Hons and Rebels and A Life of Contrasts as well as books on Nancy, that it was worth giving Unity more time away from the family as it were. In order to do this there seemed to be two choices, this and the biography by David Pryce-Jones written in the 70s.
I can now say since the package fell on the door mat this morning, through my feverish read that I might have been better off with the biography.
The problem with this book is that it is trying to do two jobs at once and as such is doing neither terribly well. Rather than acting as an interesting biography, this fictionalized account of her life and relationship with her mother as well as Jessica seems to me to be riddled with biographical errors and guesswork.
It is broken into three sections where it clearly gets facts wrong. Unity is set up as some sort of satan child, however pretty, and is portrayed in a way that one imagines Damien in The Omen. As it appears the author has gathered most of his information from reading the Mitford biographies and as such has played fast and loose with the facts. His making up of what he suggests to be accurate dialogue is also somewhat troubling. In the second part Unity runs off to Germany and meets Hitler... Maybe Unity was sexually promiscuous, but somehow the assumption that this was the case serves to make her seem just the all round 'bad 'un' that Rehak has been building up to since the beginning. We know that Unity was a troubling person, it is one of the reasons perhaps more biographies should be written of her, but this shoe horning in of 'bad gurl' detail grates somewhat. In part 3 Unity comes back to Britain and seems to under go a full transformation as if, now she has shot herself she has been redeemed of her former Nazism and is reformed, and rather stresses that more than the severe brain damage she obviously suffered.
A major issue I had was with the factual errors and the role of Jessica. We know from reading other books that Jessica has ran away with Esmond Romily by this point, and while being in some ways dedicated to 'the Boud' as she called her, would not become her friend and confidant at home or in London as she moved to America shortly afterwards. While I have a lot of admiration for Jessica, and hope I am not doing her a massive disservice, I have never imagined her to be sage depicted in these pages, rather more living and experiencing life on a wing and a prayer (note, am a massive Decca fan, but a spade is a spade). Also to make Jessica the sage seems to suggest that of the two ideologies embraced by the sister's that Communism was a benign influence, which some members of the former USSR, China and North Korea might argue, which makes it rather contentious. It also seems that the famous model for Uncle Matthew is a sweet doddery old fool here, Mum evil, with hints of Electra and it is all a bit uncomfortable. Also wrong photo credits.
However, I feel that the main problem which affects this is the bias Rehak takes. I agree obviously that the Nazi war atrocities were terrible and it is sometimes useful to be reminded of this when reading the accounts of young ladies seduced by the glamour of German fascism. Rehak is however, rather too heavy handed in this regard. As such the reader is not treated as an intelligent free thinking reader who can work this out for themselves, but spreads the bias thick and clogs up his narrative with his agenda. Having said this, I approve of the portion of sales going to Holocaust foundations and charities.
All in all, a bit disappointed. I would advise anyone wanting to learn more to try the other biography or stick to Lovell of Guiness. Or read the Letters between Six sisters for more first hand accounts.(less)