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Hons and Rebels

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  3,423 ratings  ·  265 reviews
Jessica Mitford, the great muckraking journalist, was part of a legendary English aristocratic family. Her sisters included Nancy, doyenne of the 1920s London smart set and a noted novelist and biographer; Diana, wife to the English fascist chief Sir Oswald Mosley; Unity, who fell head over in heels in love with Hitler; and Deborah, later the Duchess of Devonshire. Jessica ...more
Paperback, 284 pages
Published September 30th 2004 by NYRB Classics (first published 1960)
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Anne Lovett I think some good questions would be; Do you think Jessica did the right thing by running away with Esmond? Why or why not? What do you think of the…moreI think some good questions would be; Do you think Jessica did the right thing by running away with Esmond? Why or why not? What do you think of the way her mother treated her children? Can you relate to how bored Jessica must have been growing up? How might Jessica's life have been changed if she had been allowed to go to school? (less)

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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,423 ratings  ·  265 reviews

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I really enjoyed this book. One gets a different perspective of the Mitfords, a perspective from within. Jessica tells of her life and her family from her point of view. Events are told with immediacy, with a girlish gush of enthusiasm that feels thoroughly honest, genuine, youthful and engaging.

I got a huge kick out of the humor in the book’s lines. Underlying the humor is a seriousness which provides food for thought.

Before reading this book it is helpful to already be acquainted with the ba
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.25* of five

I fastened on this at a liberry sale I went to recently, remembering that some fellow LTer was on a Mitford Girls kick. I was inspired to buy it by its ten cent price and also its ghastly, 60s-Penguin "artwork" cover. I like that it says "3/6" for a price, so exotic and incomprehensible. And also, The American Way of Death made a **huge** impression on me as a boy, so I wanted to know more about Miss Mitford.

Oh, the joys of being in a master's hands. Mitford dashes off, appa
Sep 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody who'd love to kick Hitler's ass
Like J.K. Rowling, I worship Jessica "Decca" Mitford. If I had a daughter, I'd name her after Jessica, who was born into an aristocratic family, ran away with her hunky Communist cousin to fight in the Spanish Civil War, emigrated to the United States without a penny, and became a muckraking journalist with no formal schooling. My mouth was agape the entire time I read HONS AND seemed incredible that Mitford's story wasn't fiction. She devoted her life to fighting fascism, even while ...more
Carol Storm
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Witty and smart -- but maybe a little lacking in heart.

It's hard not to like Jessica Mitford. She was born into a world of aristocratic privilege in England, became a Communist, moved to America, and spent her whole life fighting against racism, sexism, and religious hypocrisy. She was as fearless standing up to Klansmen in Mississippi as she was standing up to Brownshirts and Blackshirts in Europe.

So it should be very exciting to read the story of her growing up. Jessica had a very large famil
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
'You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.'

Decca is a seriously underrated Mitford sister, and very sadly not my namesake. Her dashing and, at times, melodramatic life story reads like a soap opera; it’s a story of adolescent rebellion. Having opened a ‘Running Away Account’ as a child, at nineteen she eloped to Spain to fight in the civil war and then successfully emigrated to the States without a penny, later to establish herself as a successful journa
Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bios
Jessica Mitford was the "Ballroom Communist" of the engagingly eccentric Mitford Family. The second youngest daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdalee, she had an unconventional upbringing where education was the bare minimum to make a good wife. Always wishing for an escape from her family, be it through schooling or politics or moving to another continent, she suffered through being a deb and presentation before the queen and watching her family come apart at the seems due to adivergence in beliefs ...more
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this quite hungrily because I needed a Mitford fix and I couldn't get the Sisters bio on kindle. As others have noted there's something a bit flat here and I was surprisingly a bit disappointed. Unity comes across as grotesque but it's never really explored. And the dashing Esmond little better than a smarmy conman in the US. There's a lot of eccentricity, tragedy and adventure but I didn't FEEL it.
Este libro me ha enganchado de principio a fin, y he disfrutado mucho con su lectura.
La autora nos cuenta su niñez y adolescencia dentro de una familia noble inglesa, caracterizada por la excentricidad de todos sus miembros. Y de cómo aún dentro de ese mundo tan cerrado, ella llega a desarrollar su propia personalidad, y a tener sus ideas, totalmente opuestas a las de sus padres y hermanos. Hasta el punto de tener la valentía de huir de ese mundo para ir a la guerra civil española, y más tarde
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's quite surprising that I hadn't read this book before - as I have become a little addicted to reading about the mad bad Mitfords. This is a really well written, funny memoir from one of those infamous sisters. If anyone asked me who my favourite Mitford was it would be Nancy every time, the most fascinating was Diana, but the one I would have most likely liked in real life - would have been Jessica. Her warmth and likability come across strongly in this book, and she was able to poke gentle ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first part is hilarious, containing a first-hand description of the goings on at the well known dysfunctional aristocratic family in England between 1920 - 1930's. There were 6 'Mitford sisters', (and one brother) all of them to become famous and/or eccentric. The second, less hilarious but rather interesting, part is about the author, a communist, who manages to elope with Esmond Romilly. They unsuccessfully try to join the fight against the fascists in Spain and eventually end up in the US ...more
Feb 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A spotty memoir that glides over much of the author's early life while providing details on some seemingly random episodes. The picture of her wacky childhood is charmingly told albeit somewhat terrifying to contemplate - I could have used more about each Mitford sister and more insight into how this teeming brood of aristos wound up careening off in wildly different directions. After a gripping tale of Decca's escape to Civil War Spain with her cousin, the teenaged antifascist Esmond Romilly, t ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I first read this sometime back in the 80s. What was my surprise to find it again under a slightly different title, "Daughters and Rebels", which GR does not recognise (or rather it just leads you here.) Have to admit "Hons" catches the eye more.

When I first read this book I knew nothing about the Mitfords, Oswald Moseley, or any of their ilk. "Rebellion" is the active word. Raised in isolation and comfort (servants, etc), all but one of the Mitford girls rebelled in her own way. One turned to w
Emily Ross
I love reading about the Mitfords. My favourite has always been Nancy, because I love her biographies of French political figures. I've never paid much attention to Jessica 'Decca' Mitford, and this book doesn't really make me want to. It comes across as quite flat. The first half was pretty good, though parts did come across as quite childish. The second half, detailing after she met Esmond, who didn't come across well at all, mainly being a semi con-man or a man trying to achieve 'the American ...more
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british, classics, memoirs
Jessica Mitford's dashing and dramatic life story is almost too good to be true from a biography standpoint--and she's so utterly appealing that I think I have a bit of crush on her. Aristocratic and hilariously eccentric upbringing, one of the famous/infamous Mitford sisters (their number including a noted writer in Nancy, not one but TWO Nazis, and a communist--that's Jessica), elopement with her dreamy second cousin and their travels to go fight in the Spanish Civil War, emmigrating to Americ ...more
Victoria Kellaway
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe how moved I was by this book. I'm accustomed to starting to read my next book the moment I finish the previous one, but for some reason I couldn't here. I needed several hours to savour Hons and Rebels. It broke my heart in the strangest way.

It's a classic memoir of a classic time, the 1920s and the 1930s, which is one of my favourite periods of history anyway. The characters who wander in and out of Hons and Rebels are a marvel, think Evelyn Waugh, Winston Churchill, WH Auden. E
Aug 06, 2009 rated it liked it
This book reads like a love letter to Esmond Romilly...seen through rose tinted glasses of the past and of a first love.

I tried reading this book once before, but struggled to get past the sheer selfishness of both Decca and Esmond. When I first read this book I disliked both intensely, despising Esmond for driving a wedge between Decca and her family, and Decca for being so complacent.
However, I recently read the collection of letters between the 6 sisters and gained more respect for Decca.

Feb 19, 2018 added it
Shelves: memoir
Regrettably, Jessica Mitford doesn't seem to be much-remembered nowadays. I read The American Way of Death at the urging of the old man in high school (and adored it) -- Mitford was quite au courant then, and was one of those great mid-century writers who sought to revolutionize reportage... the Capotes and the Wolfes and the Hunter Thompsons and the Didions.

Although a book like Hons and Rebels, well, it deserves to be remembered. It deserves to be remembered because it describes the exuberance
2019 Monthly Challenges - April: Feeling Fraternal: #1 & 2 The Family That Writes Together: Read two or more books by authors who are siblings
Reading and listening to the agonizing news from the Madrid front, the farce of England's "non-intervention" policy, and the barbarous cruelty of Nazi and Fascist forces in Spain, made me feel like a traitor to everything decent in the world. I despised myself for living in the lap of luxury, supported and kept by the very people who were making the "
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
By turns hilarious and poignant, Jessica Mitford's account of her formative years is a classic. As a member of one of the century's most extraordinary families she has many a tale to tell. Strikingly observant and extremely well written, "Hons and Rebels" manages to convey the flavour of the English upper classes in such a way as to make them likeable. No mean feat.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have a little bit of an obsession with the six Mitford sisters, mainly because I find it fascinating that six aristocratic British girls grew up and took such divergent paths. (For those not familiar, one became an author, another a farmer, one a Nazi, one a Fascist, another a duchess and finally, Jessica, who wrote "Hons and Rebels" -- who became a Communist with plans to fight in the Spanish Civil War before she eloped and headed off to America where she fought for social justice. )

Jul 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reto-2015, memoir
En Nobles y rebeldes, la propia Jessica Mitford nos cuenta a modo de memorias sus entrañables años de niñez y adolescencia en el seno de tan excéntrica familia. La camaleónica relación que mantenía con cada una de sus hermanas, su enconado desprecio hacia un sistema de educación arcaico, anquilosado y retrógrado que dejaba el progreso académico muy lejos del alcance de las mujeres o su apasionante entrada y posterior ascenso en la escala social inglesa son solo algunos de los temas que Jessica a ...more
Jan 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britlit, history
I have to say I'm rapidly falling prey to Mitford mania, to the point where I've spent the last twenty minutes listing call numbers to check next time I'm at the library (i.e. in a half hour or so). Decca's prose is funny and wry, yet straightforward, making this autobiography approachable and quick. I was actually a little surprised by the short length until I realized she stopped the story at about age twenty; then it made sense.

The mix of political/historical content with family relationship
Nov 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who wish they were British
My favorite part about this book was the author's description of her childhood. Her family was delightfully quirky and snobby. I also enjoyed the section about Mitford and her husband selling stockings. However, I did not enjoy most of the parts that involved her relationship with her husband. I have a feeling I would not have liked her husband much. He seemed to have a dilettantish interest in fascism and social justice, and really struck me as being sort of naive and clueless.
Maureen S
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mitfords
Didn't enjoy as much as I'd hoped -- apparently I'm not the biggest Decca fan. So many of her exploits with Esmond made me squirm, and the endless parade of "big names" got old. Perhaps my opinion has been tainted by some previous Mitford reading. The best parts were her reflections on the politics of the time, and her discussion of her sisters, of course. On to Debo's memoir!
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hons and Rebles is pure gold for anyone fascinated by mid-20th century anti-fascism or wildly eccentric English aristocrats. If for some demented reason those subjects don't appeal to you, you can still enjoy the book for Mitford's fine prose stylings and first class wit.
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Me ha encantado. Por un lado, resulta una historia tan fascinante y está narrada con tanta frescura, que parece completamente ficcional. Sin embargo, se trata de una biografía. Las personas a las que hace referencia existieron, los hechos, aunque siempre vistos desde el punto de vista de la autora, ocurrieron así y, para bien y para mal, tanto las cosas divertidas como las tristes no son una mera historia salida de la cabeza de Jessica Mitford. Cabe destacar el conjunto de fotografías a modo de ...more
Elizabeth Graham
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jessica Mitford is a warm and charming writer, and her fairytale childhood is juxtaposed well against her young adult years fighting in Spain with the anti-fascists. Still, I don't think she ever really delved into the elements of her sisters' characters and personalities that made them so susceptible to fascist ideology, and I find this book slightly superficial in that sense.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Mitfords are fascinating. The nicknames, the upbringing, the places they all ended up (a duchess! A commie! A fascist! A lesbian! A well-known writer! And Diana.), the people they knew...the people they married...

Anyway, hearing it from the horse's mouth is the way to go. I'm going to have to read some of Nancy's novels next.
Robert Spencer
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The best kind of memoir - one whose author can write with real flair and humour, and whose life was truly pretty amazing. I did feel a sense of dislocation in the second half, where Mitford seemed to relegate her role to that as a passenger riding along in the adventures of her husband, Esmond Romilly. Although he was an interesting character too, I enjoyed this section less than her treatment of her childhood and fascinating family. But this is really a wonderful piece of writing.
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though she was born into a wonderfully eccentric upper class English family, Jessica Mitford was set on escaping--she started a "running away" savings account at Drummond's Bank in London when she was twelve. At nineteen she eloped with her rebel cousin and they ran away together to the Spanish Civil War--an event that was Huge Big News at the time. Two of her sisters were friends with Hitler, and on hearing what Jessica had done even the poster child for evil was scandalized. (Well, that might ...more
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NYRB Classics: Hons and Rebels, by Jessica Mitford 1 7 Oct 23, 2013 01:24PM  
  • The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters
  • Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler's Angel
  • Love from Nancy
  • Wait for Me!
  • Nancy Mitford
  • Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford
  • Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
  • A Life of Contrasts: An Autobiography
  • To War with Whitaker: The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly, 1939-1945
  • The House of Mitford
  • Period Piece
  • Nancy Mitford: A Biography
  • Keats
  • Two Under the Indian Sun
Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford was an English author, journalist and political campaigner, who was one of the Mitford sisters. She gained American citizenship in later life.
“A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.” 29 likes
“I discovered that Human Nature was not, as I had always supposed, a fixed and unalterable entity, that wars are not caused by a natural urge in men to fight, that ownership of land and factories is not necessarily the natural reward of greater wisdom and energy.” 4 likes
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