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Wait for Me!: Memoirs Hardcover – November 9, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this sparkling memoir, the Duchess (The Pursuit of Laughter) writes about her famously eccentric family and the upper reaches of the British aristocracy with whom she has mingled during her long life (she'll turn 91 in March). She was related to Winston Churchill's wife, Clementine, and to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. In 1938, she met her future husband, Andrew Cavendish, and socialized with the Kennedy's. As their guest, she attended JFK's inauguration, and then his funeral, and writes movingly of both events. When her husband inherited his title, she became the mistress of Chatsworth; the Devonshire family estate dated back to the time of Henry VIII and contained fabulous treasures, including original Rembrandt paintings, and Mitford helped manage a variety of enterprises connected with it. In the '60s, Andrew served as a Minister of State and the couple travelled widely. A staunch conservative herself, her family's politics tended to be more extreme. Her parents sympathized with Nazi Germany, her sister Unity, a close companion of Hitler, attempted suicide at the start of hostilities, and sister Diana, wife of British fascist Oswald Mosley, was jailed. Full of absorbing anecdotes, Mitford's wonderfully-written tale of a tumultuous era is fascinating. Norman Parkinson's iconic 1952 photo of the Duchess adorns the cover.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


“Charming, captivating, and at times wickedly funny. ‘Wait for Me!' was the refrain of young ‘Debo', the baby of the family. Now ninety, she has caught up beautifully.” ―Time

“A national treasure.” ―Sarah Lyall, The New York Times

Wait for Me! . . . teem[s] with memories of love, war, betrayal, heartbreak, housekeeping, and frolic . . . tantalizing . . . riveting.” ―Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review

“Admirably done, cannily blending disclosure and reticence in a charming book that kept me riveted.” ―Miranda Seymour, The Guardian (London)

“[Debo] is in possession of what I can only describe as a uniquely Mitford-esque sensibility: loving but unsentimental . . . able to find the ridiculous in almost anything.” ―Rachel Cooke, The Observer (London)

“More entertaining than anything I could say about it.” ―P. J. Kavanagh on COUNTING MY CHICKENS..., The Spectator

“Nobody with an interest in the past century could fail to be interested in the gossip, which extends to just about everyone of interest.” ―Matthew Bell on HOME TO ROOST, The Independent on Sunday

“Behind the wit and quips, there is something else stronger and more rigorous. She goes to the ballet at Covent Garden with the Queen Mother and notices that throughout the entire performance, the Queen Mother's back ‘never once touched the chair.' That is how the Duchess is too--never a slouch, never a saggy moment, even in grief alert, attentive, observant.” ―Adam Nicolson on HOME TO ROOST, The Spectator

“One of the great twentieth-century correspondences . . . Bursting with wit and conviviality.” ―James Purdon on IN TEARING HASTE, The Observer (London)

“Beguiling . . . Hugely enjoyable . . . What these letters so wonderfully demonstrate is an unfailing appetite for life.” ―Anne Chisholm on IN TEARING HASTE, The Spectator

“Funny, loving, sparkly, snarky, heartbreaking, chilling, gossipy, wise.” ―Amanda Lovell on THE MITFORDS, O, The Oprah Magazine


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374207682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374207687
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patricia Tryon on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The cover of the American edition of this book demonstrates, to some degree, the difference between working definitions of glamor in the United States and in England. In the United States... Well, you see from the cover. The English cover shows the Dowager Duchess at her age (90), comfortably -- even proudly -- holding two prize hens. It could be that the covers show something of the difference in expectations readers will have as they wade into this autobiography.

Almost a third of the book deals with the Duchess' life before she married. She describes in detail the Victorian backgrounds of both her parents and what it was like to grow up in an unsentimental household where the birth of another daughter (she is the youngest of six daughters and a lone, prized son) was scarcely greeted with undiluted joy. Armchair psychologists will find much to mine because the descriptions of her family are affectionate, but unvarnished to the point of unsparing. But the Duchess' family was not unique in this respect among members of their socio-economic class. Their circumstances, comparatively reduced for the circles in which they traveled, required a degree of creative economizing, whether in the family's having to move house or in organizing yet another "coming out" for a daughter.

The sketches of her sisters carry overtones of love, but are also stinging and regretful. The Duchess is, keep in mind, one of the legendary Mitford sisters. Among them was a famous novelist and raconteur, another was the whistle blower on the notoriously exploitative American funeral industry (The American Way of Death, still in print), another was an infamous Hitler sympathizer who in fact took occupancy of an apartment in Germany from which a Jewish family had been evicted.
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Her sister Nancy was an acclaimed novelist. Sister Jessica (Decca) was the muckraking journalist who wrote "The American Way of Death." Sister Unity fell in love with Hitler and then shot herself. Sister Diana married the British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley and spent much of World War II in prison. Now Deborah, or Debo as she is known, the youngest and only surviving Mitford sister, tells the story of her life so far, one that may well make her the most famous Mitford sister of all.

Unlike her wicked and witty collection of writings compiled in "Counting My Chickens" that reveals her crush on Elvis, her resistance to book reading and predeliction for buying her clothes at agricultural fairs, "Wait for Me!" which takes its name from a youngest child's constant struggles to catch up with the others, is a book that has the carefully considered weight of history hanging over its every word.

As Duchess of Devonshire, Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish was responsible for seven houses that, in addition to the great British country house, Chatsworth, included Lismore Castle in Ireland where the family spent salmon-season every April and Bolton Abbey where they hosted shooting parties every August. Other times found her shopping the coutourier houses of Paris with a sister or two...going to Carnival in Rio with Aly Kahn and coming home with the gift of one of his horses, the Grand National winner Royal Tan...making a hop across the pond at the invitation of her friend Jack at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, smack dab in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis...assigned to trailing the Queen Mother at an agricultural fair and mixing Her Royal Highness's Dubonnet and gin drinks...
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This is a window into a long gone world. We have seen parts of it in the other Mitford sisters books, but Debo takes us on into the world of the busy life of the Duchess, as well. It is interesting to compare the perspectives of the sisters on their family. Debo is very loving toward them all. She does not have the brilliant wit they did and some of this reads a bit like a Christmas letter-nice bits about people you don't know and aren't interested in. I would recommend this for those who are fascinated by the Mitfords, and England as it used to be.
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Yes, the Duchess is one of the famous Mitford sisters; and true, her autobiography is the account, not merely of her childhood, but the royalty, political leaders, and artists that she has known. Yet this book is the story, not of a privileged aristocrat, but rather a highly intelligent, incredibly resourceful woman with a great head for business, who has turned the debt-ridden family estate into a small conglomerate of "cottage" (and "castle") industries that has not merely generated sufficient income to keep that estate alive, but has been in the vanguard of the environmental and "local agriculture" movements. In addition, she's a decorator and the author of several best-selling books. What a talent!

Indeed, what the Duchess's story proves is that talent will out, even among the very privileged. Deborah Mitford is the British (non-profit) Martha Stewart, and I mean that as a compliment. Instead of merely sitting home and entertaining -- which she did, apparently brilliantly -- she looked outward, working as an unpaid "volunteer" who, among other achievements, restored a centuries-old home and estate to it former glory, opened hotels, ran restaurants, marketed numerous foods and handmade products, including lawn furniture, and developed educational programs that taught city children and adults about the methods of healthy farming and animal raising. She's even got a flock of egg-producing chickens, and is selling the eggs.

I found myself smiling each time the Duchess matter-of-factly described another new venture, thinking "You go, Debo!" In addition, she is keenly aware of the need for strong family and community ties; her employees stay with her forever, and she encourages them to develop their talents and skills.
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