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Wait for Me!: Memoirs

Wait for Me!: Memoirs


Wait for Me!: Memoirs

ratings:
4/5 (18 ratings)
Length:
14 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Nov 24, 2010
ISBN:
9781452670263
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Description

Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire, is the youngest of the famously witty brood that includes the writers Jessica and Nancy, who wrote when Deborah was born, "How disgusting of the poor darling to go and be a girl." Deborah's effervescent memoir Wait for Me! chronicles her remarkable life, from an eccentric but happy childhood in the Oxfordshire countryside, to tea with Adolf Hitler and her controversially political sister Unity in 1937, to her marriage to the second son of the Duke of Devonshire. Her life would change utterly with his unexpected inheritance of the title and vast estates after the wartime death of his brother, who had married Kick Kennedy, the beloved sister of John F. Kennedy. Her friendship with that family would last through triumph and tragedy. With its intense warmth and charm, Wait for Me! is a unique portrait of an age and an unprecedented look at the rhythms of life inside one of the great aristocratic families of England. It is irresistible listening and will join the shelf of Mitford classics to delight audiences for years to come.
Publisher:
Released:
Nov 24, 2010
ISBN:
9781452670263
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was brought up in Oxfordshire, England. In 1950 her husband, Andrew, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, inherited extensive estates in Yorkshire and Ireland as well as Chatsworth, the family seat in Derbyshire, and Deborah became chatelaine of one of England’s great houses. She is the author of Wait for Me!, Counting My Chickens and Home to Roost, among other books, and her letters have been collected in The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters and In Tearing Haste: The Correspondence of the Duchess of Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor. Following her husband’s death in 2004, she moved to a village on the Chatsworth estate.


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4.1
18 ratings / 17 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    A fascinating read for anyone with an interest in the Mitford sisters (Deborah, or Debo was the youngest Mitford). Gives a different perspective on the sister's upbringing and early adulthood between the wars and then segues into Deborah's life as Duchess of Devonshire, chatelaine of Chatworth, wife of a diplomat and friend of the "great and good" in the UK and the USA (connected by marriage and tragedy with the Kennedys). There's an arresting mixture of candour interspersed with a lack of understanding of how entitled her life was - even after the punitive death duties levied when her husband inherited the Dukedom they were left with more wealth than most of us would dream of. However she also experienced more than her fair share of personal tragedy and I am reminded that all the wealth and privilige in the world cannot protect you from grief and loss. Worth a read if you are interested in the Mitfords and class in the UK.
  • (2/5)
    I find the subject matter (The Mitfords) very interesting, but the Duchesses style of writing and flitting from topic to topic makes the narrative distracting and hard to immerse yourself in.
  • (4/5)
    Pleasant memoir by the youngest Mitford sister with the usual amusing family anecdotes. Deborah married Lord Andrew Cavendish who became the Duke of Devonshire and became the public face of Chatsworth, the seat of the dukedom. Before and during her marriage she knew a lot of interesting people and has stories about them all. She also writes a lot about the running of Chatsworth where she and her husband lived after the war. I liked her a lot even though she's pro fox hunting.
  • (4/5)
    I have no real interest in British royalty but this book contains numerous character sketches that are enjoyable. I do enjoy reading about the effect WWII had on British life and this book is a great document of that time period from the 20s to current era.
  • (4/5)
    I've heard snippets about the six Mitford sisters over the years but not enough to create a cohesive picture, probably because the scandalous sisters were so diverse. In 2010, when she was ninety years old, the youngest, Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire wrote her biography that includes details about her family and involves much of the history of the last century. Practically everyone of note from the era makes an appearance from movie stars to world statesmen, art and literary luminaries, royalty, the Kennedy family, even Hitler. Her husband's elder brother who would have inherited the title, was married to Kick Kennedy, the sister of childhood friend Jack Kennedy. The Devonshires attended President Kennedy's inauguration and funeral, described in two appendices. She was amazed at how Americans handled the inauguration so informally compared to the minute planning of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. Her life was interesting, with many achievements. The deaths of Andrew's elder brother in the war and his father not long afterwards, incurred enormous death duties that were not fully paid until 1974. They transformed Chatsworth into a profitable business, now one of the biggest tourist attraction in Britain and employing 600 locals.I suspect Debo wrote this frank detailed biography to provide the last word on her life and family, thus curbing inaccuracies in other renderings. It's a complex story arranged by topic rather than chronology, giving it depth although it appears to jump around. It is not simply name-dropping on her part but a history of the world she knew and naturally, the people involved. This is Downton Abbey on a grand scale, combined with an international Who's Who of the 20th century. Among her other books are Chatsworth: the house and The Garden at Chatsworth both of which I've also enjoyed browsing as companion reading.
  • (2/5)
    Deborah Cavendish, better known as the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and the last remaining Mitford sister, has lived a life so eventful that it almost seems mythical. From her oft-discussed childhood with her five sisters to tea with Hitler and helping to revive the ailing fortunes of the famed Cavendish estate, there is much in Debo’s life that has yet to be covered by the numerous biographies, memoirs of her sisters and collections of letters that have packed the shelves. Unfortunately, “Wait For Me!” manages to achieve the impossible by being insufferably dull. Cavendish’s writing lacks the wit and skill that her sisters Nancy and Jessica seemed to pull off with ease, with random vignettes of plodding prose in place of a sturdier narrative. While there are moments of genuine wit, Cavendish’s storytelling priorities seem questionable. More time and attention is given to recounting her days of fox hunting and debutante balls than to tea with Hitler and attending John F. Kennedy’s inauguration (an event which shockingly made her miss the beginning of hunting season). An unashamedly conservative figure, the reader’s mileage may vary when it comes to Cavendish’s outrage over having to sell a few Rembrandts to pay inheritance tax, as well as her uncomfortable defence of her Nazi sympathising sisters Diana and Unity’s politics. The book earns some points with Debo’s stoic but heart-breaking account of becoming the last remaining Mitford, but “Wait For Me!” is oddly lacking in insight and one for hard core Mitford devotees only.
  • (2/5)
    I suspect that this is precisely the wrong place to start with the Mitfords. I was thrown willy-nilly into a confusing jumble of nicknames (each person has several), titles and anecdotes. I retire bloody and beaten.

    Mitford aficionados, I'm open for advice.
  • (4/5)
    Having visited Chatsworth many times over the years, this book held a particular interest for me. However, the bits regarding Chatsworth are only a small part of Deborah Devonshire's story. Having been born a Mitford gives her a wealth of interesting stories of childhood and early family memories, and then she moves seamlessly through her life, telling the reader about all the major events and twists and turns that have taken place.I found this to be a very readable memoir of a fascinating lady. I wasn't so bothered about hearing about all the people she had come into contact with, but I enjoyed her stories of her sisters, her mother and father, her marriage, and her time at Chatsworth, including the establishment of the Orangery shop, farm shop and restaurant.Recommended for an easy to read, friendly memoir.
  • (5/5)
    Deborah Devonshire was the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters—last in line after Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity, and Jessica. In 1941 she married Andrew Cavendish, son of the Duke of Devonshire, and eventually became the Duchess of Devonshire. Deborah helped turn Chatsworth into a popular tourist destination and is the author of several books. She also knew, literally, everyone, as seen from the impressive number of names she drops in this memoir.The memoir is arranged more by subject matter than chronological; a chapter on the Kennedys (who Deborah was related to distantly through marriage; Andrew’s brother was married to Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F. Kennedy) is followed by a chapter on Deborah’s involvement in public life. It’s a good way to organize the book considering how extensive Deborah’s life has been.It seems that Deborah Mitford knew everybody, and she has a tendency to namedrop shamelessly in the memoir. She was related by marriage to two Prime Ministers (Churchill and Macmillan, who’s called Uncle Harold throughout) and the Kennedys, and she had friendships with or came into contact with everyone from President and Lady Bird Johnson to Patrick (Paddy) Leigh Fermor. She even had lunch at one point with Elizabeth Bowen, which goes to show you the extent of the name-dropping.Deborah’s sisters used to frequently joke that she was “illiterate,” but I thought this was an entertaining memoir. Deborah’s voice is fresh (despite her advanced age) and funny in many places. She talks candidly about sensitive subjects, although she glosses over her relationship with Andrew a little bit. I thought the name-dropping was a little bit excessive at times, but over all, I thought that this was an enjoyable memoir.
  • (5/5)
    Thames Television's1980 adaptation of the Nancy Mitford novel Love In A Cold Climate starring Judi Dench and Michael Aldridge is still fresh in my memory. What times, what wonderful times, experienced by those lucky to be ’clued in’ enough to tune into those exceptional dramas produced in the 60s, 70s and the early 80s (Downton is sooo lightweight!).Who can forget Farve - that legendary eccentric David Freeman-Mitford, or dear Muv - Sydney, daughter of Thomas Bowles, and never their six famous daughters - Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Debo, who famously and infamously married fortunately or calamitously - together with their only son Tom who fought and was killed in WWII.I was lost to the Mitford family from then on, so how overjoyed was I to find Debora Mitford’s latest offering, her memoirs - Wait for Me! - on the shelf of my local library - one, apparently, of several books she has written about Chatsworth. Debo’s life history must be well known to all, but this wonderful telling of her early life bought me out in fits of giggles and bursts of uncontrollable laughter so refreshingly funny is her narration. Always simple and straightforward in her perception of life - nothing political or complex about Debo, just a quiet sensitivity, an acute observation and astute discernment.She is unassumingly grateful for what her years have given her - a privileged life as the youngest daughter of an aristocratic family; that great and grand family, a mixed bunch and poor …. in relative terms … as they ostensivley were; her husband Andrew Cavendish, eventually 10th Duke of Devonshire; her unexpectedly (good?) fortune in inheriting Chatsworth the grandest country house in Britain; and, more exceptionally, her children Mark, Emma, Peregrine, Victor, Mary, and Sophia; and her grandchildren Stella Tennant and Max Mosley.Debo takes us from the grandness of unaffordable Batsford inherited by her father from the 1st Lord Redesdale, to Asthall Manor beloved of the older girls and Tom where they hosted many hunting and shooting weekend parties; to Swinbrook House where Farve indulged his passion for building - sadly, a house facing due North, much to the distress of Debo’s older siblings who hated it with a vengeance from the start.Never rich, and further ruined by poor judgement both in his peremptory moves and weak investments, Farve is not a good role model for Deborah Cavendish, given her ultimate responsibility as sole support of her husband in putting Chatsworth on a firm and financially viable footing in the mid-C20.The Cavendish estate was burdened by debt from the 6th Duke’s extravagances, the 7th Duke’s business ventures together with the agricultural depression of the mid-1800s. When the 8th Duke died in 1908 Chatsworth struggled on under the 9th and 10th Dukes until the impact of the second world war and its abondnment to Penrhos College girls school. In 1944 William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington was killed in action only four months after his marriage to Kathleen Kennedy and, when his father the 10th Duke died in 1950, the estate was hit by 80% death duties - avoidable had the 10th Duke lived only a few months longer.Much earlier, but in similar circumstances. the 5th Duke’s London residence, the famed Devonshire House, scene of his duchess Georgiana Spencer’s spectacular balls and political salons in the mid-C18, had long gone together with much of the Devonshire’s splendid library and acres of land to finance similar death duties owed by the 9th Duke. Following the sale finalised in 1920, Devonshire House was demolished and, much to the horror of contemporaries, became the site of a hotel and block of flats.In the 1950s Debo and Andrew inherited a wonderful building in Chatsworth, and a committed staff: but also a huge debt, paid only by the transfer of Hardwick Hall to the National Trust, the sale of further swathes of Devonshire land, many long-held Devonshire works of art and more rare books. Debo and Andrew’s debt to the Government - £179 million in today’s figures - was not to be resolved until agreement was reached much later with the Inland Revenue.In 1959 Deborah, Andrew and their growing family moved back into Chatsworth from Edensor House on the estate. The challenges were breathtaking but they set to work together, throwing themselves into every possible aspect of commercial activity. The restoration of the house, the creation or the garden, setting up of The Chatsworth Farm, Farm Shop -employing over 100 people - and Farm Shop Restaurant - against all odds - together with the Devonshire Arms Hotel, Devonshire Fell Hotel and Bistro, and the Cavendish Hotel together with a line of Chatsworth branded foods and Chatsworth Carpenters. These were all innovations largely due to the imagination and hard work of the now Dowager Duchess of Devonshire - Deborah Mitford. Whilst Debo gives due weight to Andrew’s role in the mission, particularly as is universally acknowledged to the free-of-charge access to Chatsworth Park, it is largely due to the influence of Deborah Mitford, youngest daughter of Farve, that the estate finds itself more than able to support the £4 million that it costs Chatsworth to run today. In a little over half a century she has been so much more than the loving support of the Duke in bringing Chatsworth back from the brink after nearly two hundred years of impecuniousness. Sadly Deborah lost the support of Andrew on his death in 2004, earlier by far thah expected. She now lives again in Edensor House.Finally and to conclude, how interesting it is to note that Deborah, the wife of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, so remarkable and considerable a woman as was she become to the survival of the Cavendish estate and its continuance, that it was due to such an another extraordinary woman that the Cavendish estate was founded. It was due to the stamina, sheer determination, and foresight of Bess of Hardwick - the second richest, the second most powerful, and the second most influential woman in Elizabethan England - that the Cavendish dynasty was first established. A fine inheritance indeed Debo and an excellent legacy to conclude your influential and not insubstantial contribution to our British heritage in Chatsworth.Well done Debo and well done in writing this self-effacing but so human a memoir in which we can all share. Once upon a time we all had the chutzpah to do what you did - how lovely it is that in your 90th year you can still remember yours with such clarity- puts us all such younger ‘bods’ to shame!
  • (5/5)
    I am something of a "newbie" to the Mitfords. Being a student of the Kennedys, I had already known that JFK's sister, Kick, had married the heir to the Duke of Devonshire, but was widowed shortly after her marriage. The next in line was Debo's husband, Andrew. Out of sheer curiosity, I picked this book up and was instantly hooked. Deborah Mitford has written one of the most wonderful autobiographies I have ever read. It has its place among my favorite books. Debo tells of times gone by, people gone by, and a way of life gone by. It is simply fascinating.Read it and you won't be disappointed.
  • (3/5)
    The book is entertaining as it discusses lots of English history, but I found it a little long on 9th earls, etc. Interesting to me is how the very priviledged aristocracy consider themselves poor as they struggle to keep up six large estates. The Mitford family is very unusual and fun to read about.
  • (5/5)
    Every story reinforces the charm of this elegant and straight-shooting lady, from her earliest recollections of her well-known family to the ups and downs of restoring (and making profitable) one of England's most glorious estates. Like her house, the facade is daunting but what shines through is friendliness. Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    I love reading about the Mitford sisters, with their eccentric childhood, family nicknames and larger than life personalities, but the only trouble with Deborah 'Debo' Devonshire's memoirs are that I think I've read it all before! Jessica Mitford's autobiography 'Hons and Rebels' covers much the same territory (until she elopes with her first husband and moves to America), and the Dowager Duchess' books about Chatsworth settled my curiosity about what it must be like to live in such a grand house. Still, 'Wait For Me' does not disappoint, and the Mitford writing style is just as entertaining as ever, although the later chapters, filled with anecdotes about visitors to Chatsworth and the Devonshires' celebrity friends, are not as funny as Debo's youthful escapades and memories of her family. Perhaps being the youngest Mitford sister, as the subtitle states, means that Deborah Mitford lived her life in the shadow of her older and more controversial sisters, but at times her own memoirs tend to become more of a potted family history, talking about everyone but the author! The Dowager Duchess has few bad opinions of her many and varied acquaintances over the years, and describes nearly everyone as attractive, talented and good fun, but she is also honest about personal subjects such as her late husband's alcoholism, which I didn't expect (coming from a class and generation which didn't wash their dirty linen in public, and rightly so). The final chapters, with the loss of four of her dear sisters and her husband, are naturally very sad, but Deborah comes across as a survivor who enjoys life and her family and friends. I shall have to get around to reading Nancy Mitford's novels, and the Duke of Devonshire's memoirs, 'Accidents of Fortune', also sound fascinating.
  • (5/5)
    I love anything about and especially by the Mitford Sisters. I thought this was an interesting and thoughtful account of an extraordinary life, from a viewpoint not often looked at in their family's public notoriety.
  • (5/5)
    This is a wonderful new addition to the Mitford canon by Deborah, The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, known as "Debo". Her sisters Nancy, Diana and Jessica (Decca) long ago wrote their own books, but being the youngest and only living sibling Debo brings a different perspective to WAIT FOR ME!. Nancy and the other older children hated having to move from Asthall Manor, where they had freedom and privacy because their rooms were in a converted barn, but Debo, then six, loved their new home at Swinbrook. She and Decca spent hours there formulating a secret language in the Hons Cupboard, a linen closet that served as their private meeting place, and Debo began her lifelong love of hens, which she raised so she could sell eggs to Muv, her mother.In other books Muv has been portrayed as vague and cold, but in Debo's depiction she is hardworking, full of understanding and always fair. Two days before Debo's wedding one of London's heaviest air raids blew out the windows of the ballroom where her reception was to be held. Shards of shattered glass covered everything and the curtains were ruined, shredded to bits. Muv shaped gold and grey wallpaper into pretend draperies to cover the glassless windows and convinced a wine merchant to part with some of his precious but diminishing supply of champagne from occupied, or soon to be occupied, France. Thanks to Muv, and the requisite but frosting-less cake (war sugar rationing), the party was able to proceed.Debo's writes candidly and entertainingly about her courtship and marriage to Andrew Devonshire, who became a duke because his older brother was killed in WWII. The war exacted a heavy toll on the Mitfords who lost many friends and family, including Tom, their beloved and only brother, and though Debo doesn't dwell on tragedy those sections of the book are eye-opening and deeply moving. She writes in the same open and level headed way about her miscarriages, Andrew's alcoholism and Nancy's recently revealed denunciation of Diana while she was imprisoned for her connections to Hitler.When Andrew's father died Debo and Andrew inherited Chatsworth, a huge 126-room mansion which has since been the setting for two Keira Knightly movies, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and THE DUCHESS. Chatsworth is beautiful now but was in terrible shape when they were suddenly put in charge. The miracle renovation Debo, and her husband oversaw is even more remarkable because Andrew's father died a few weeks too early to exempt them from an 80% death duty tax that in 1950 amounted to £7 million.Debo admired Muv's ability to select diverse styles of furnishing that worked beautifully together, and she used that eclecticism as a model while decorating Chatsworth. Eclecticism also seems to be Debo's guide when choosing friends, a group that has included local farmers, Evelyn Waugh and Prince Charles, and Debo has funny or interesting stories about all of them.Though Debo has never been as political as her one-time communist sister Decca or her fascist leaning sisters Diana and Unity she has had close connections to some of the world's most politically powerful people. Debo's brother-in-law married Kathleen (Kick) Kennedy so she attended both John F. Kennedy's inauguration and funeral as a family member. Former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is Uncle Harold to Debo and she is also related to Winston Churchill. In 1960 her husband Andrew was made Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and she traveled to Africa, Asia and the Caribbean as he represented Britain during a time that coincided with the independence of eleven British colonies.Books by and about the Mitfords are full of the demand "Do admit" and WAIT FOR ME! finally reveals its source. The cover of HORSE AND HOUND carried the endorsement, "I freely admit the best of my fun I owe it to Horse & Hound" which, when shortened to "Do admit", was used by the five younger sisters, Debo says, to get the attention of witty and sophisticated Nancy.
  • (5/5)
    I am bias because I love and am obsessed by anything about the Mitfords. This is Debo's story - the last living of the Mitford sisters. She is very modest about her achievements, which are more than any of the other sisters. This gives further insight into her life (rather than "the Mitfords"). So interesting.