Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Downfall of Debo

Thank you for all your message on the post from Sunday, they're appreciated.

Now my Masters has finished (gulp) I should have more time for blogging, and maybe even sketching too. If you were wondering about my future, by the way, then so am I. I have a place to study for a doctorate, at Magdalen again, but I haven't got funding yet. So we'll see...

Right. Back to books. I wrote about Deborah Devonshire's Counting My Chickens over a year ago. Better know to most of us as Debo Mitford, I read her collection of thoughts off the back of loving the Mitford letters, and Debo could do no wrong in my eyes. Home to Roost and other peckings is more or less in the same line - some new articles and vignettes, but mostly the bits and pieces which weren't included in her earlier book. She's even wearing the same coat on the cover. But, on the whole, I found the book a little disappointing...

Alan Bennett writes the introduction, and says 'Deborah Devonshire is not someone to whom one can say "Joking apart..." Joking never is apart: with her it's of the essence even of the most serious and indeed saddest moments.' Well, sadly he is completely wrong - Home to Roost seems utterly devoid of the humour I'd come to love in Debo. Even the cover shows her snarling, in contrast to the smile on the front of Counting My Chickens. Too often the articles are simply catalogues of complaints, snarking at anti-hunting people, townfolk, American vocabulary, the government - anything any grumpy old lady might moan about. I'm sorry to sound a bit cruel, but there is no fury like a booklover scorned. Some of the essays had the sparks of humour I'd hoped for - when she is writing about tiaras, for example, and book signing. And none of the collection is unreadable - it's just the tone is consistently grumpy and demonstrating an inability to see the world from anyone else's perspective. Exactly the traits she *didn't* have, when compared to her uber-political sisters Jessica, Diana and Unity.

I'm sad that I can't write a more positive review of Home to Roost, and perhaps it was simply the wrong time for me to read it, but I suggest sticking to Counting My Chickens - or, even better, the letters Debo and her sisters wrote so entertainingly.

5 comments:

  1. Sorry you didn't enjoy this as much as you'd hoped. Funny that the title includes the word 'peckings'; it sounds like the author is pecking indeed.

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  2. Sorry that you've been disappointed Simon. I've really been enjoying it but then again I love sarcasm, perhaps I think Debo is being witty when she's really just complaining. Oh dear...

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  3. I am getting to the Mitford letters this summer. I read Counting and often pick it up for a laugh, sorry this one is not on par-but gosh, She must be getting tried of it all- does she really need the $. I am doing a fun Summer Reading Series- please drop in.

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  4. That's a shame. After reading the Mitford Girls biography by Mary Lovell, Debo definitely came across as the friendliest and least scathing of the sisters...clearly she does have the rather biting Mitford tongue hidden away! I'd still like to read this though...I haven't read anything of Debo's other than her letters.

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  5. Shame it was a disappointment. When I read Letters between Six Sisters, the Mitford I most identified with was Diana (although I certainly don't agree with her politics). I just empathised with her love of reading.

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