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Society darling, actress, wife of key WW2 politician Duff Cooper… Here are Lady Diana Cooper’s sparkling letters to her son John Julius

The glittering letters of British socialite Lady Diana Cooper to her son John Julius Norwich, from pre-World War Two London to post-Liberation Paris
‘Please, darling monster, write as often as you can. It’s so sad waiting for letters that don’t come and are not even written. I love my darling boy. Don’t treat me so badly again or I’ll have your lights and liver when I get home.’ 19 November 1939

‘I wish, I wish it was all over – Hitler defeated, the lights up again and the guns still.’ 2 October 1940

Lady Diana Cooper was the Edwardian It Girl who inspired novelists from Evelyn Waugh to Nancy Mitford. Born Lady Diana Manners, she was an aristocrat, society darling and an actress. Married to political star Duff Cooper, they were the golden couple at the heart of 20th century British upper-class life. This extraordinary collection of letters written by Diana to her only son, John Julius Norwich, takes us from the rumblings of war, through the Blitz to rural Sussex to post-Liberation Paris.

Beyond all the glitz, Diana emerges in these letters as highly intelligent, funny and fiercely loyal: a woman who disliked extravagance and was often shy, who was happiest in the countryside and whose greatest love were her husband and son John, who would later become a leading historian and broadcaster. These illuminating letters document some of history’s most dramatic events, but they provide a vivid and touching portrait of the love between a mother and son, separated by war, oceans – and the constraints of the time they lived in.

Diana Cooper is as vivid in literature and social legend as she was in life. Her letters are frank, witty and humorous’ The Times


Witty, touching, perceptive and beautifully written... Read at a sitting or keep by your bed -- either way you will be enchanted

Jonathan Dimbleby, Mail on Sunday

Cooper's letters have special immediacy and frankness... a lot of gossip, for sure, but also some sublime descriptive writing... And then there is her beadiness, which is worth its weight in silver breakfast trays... Truly blissful

Rachel Cooke, Observer (New Review)

She treats her son, last seen in a dimly lit station, as a much missed grown-up to whom she can be exhilaratingly open. She sends him intimate glimpses of the great... the good... and the not-so good. Inescapably posh but rarely judgemental... she is rescued from glibness by her childlike curiosity and humour, and the always innocent eye with which she peeks at the world

Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph

This book is a rich fruitcake, stuffed with delicious and surprising plums

Jane Ridley, Literary Review

Though always exigent of love, the letters are filled with jokes, sharp observation and relish for the passing moment. This selection of them offers a sparkling portrait of a maternal relationship

Jane Shilling, Evening Standard

Diana Cooper is as vivid in literature and social legend as she was in life. Her letters are frank, witty and humorous

The Times

Marvellous... What these letters reproduce is the quality of Cooper's conversation... She is witty, plucky, well-read and unexpectedly wise; also irreverent and gossipy

Cressida Connolly, Mail on Sunday

Her letters, edited here by her son, reveal the sometimes vulnerable, often self-mocking and occasionally reflective character behind the perfect maquillage... The self-portrait it offers of a woman whose natural vivacity was often a bulwark against pessimism and despair is oddly poignant

Rosemary Hill, Guardian

[Diana Cooper is] a terrific letter writer, as this book attests… Tender, absorbing and highly readable, this is a brilliant picture of a vanished world

The Good Book Guide

A diary of Diana Cooper's life during the Second World War and afterwards in Paris – absorbing, funny and sharply observed

Jane Ridley, Spectator

An amusing record of an unusual life

Molly Guinness, Spectator

Her charming, funny, gossipy letters are a vivid portrait of a charmed class, as well as a testament to a mother’s love for her son

Daily Mail

Diana Cooper is as vivid in literature and social legend as she was in life. Her letters are frank, witty and humorous

Iain Finlayson, The Times

This is a fascinating account of a life well lived

Brighton and Hove Independent

A sparky, quirky, endearing study of England in wartime, and an object lesson in courage, character and humanity

Richard Davenport-Hines, Times Literary Supplement

An absolute treat

Sophia Martelli, Observer

While Darling Monster is a showcase of Diana’s debonair wit, it is also a unique chronicle of wartime Britain

Sophia Martelli, Guardian

Exhilarating volume of wartime letters

5 stars, Daily Telegraph

Tender, absorbing and readable, this is a brilliant picture of a vanished world

Good Book Guide

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    November 3, 2014


    528 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    October 3, 2013

    Vintage Digital

    528 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
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