Kiss Myself Goodbye is a work of beauty. The simple truthfulness of Ferdinand Mount’s storytelling is irresistible. There is nothing artful about it; there are no loud shouts for attention or coarse revelations designed to shock. Instead, he offers a calm, lucid, humane approach, and the prizing of justice. Mount’s recounting of the life of his aunt Munca is one of those delicate miniatures that show the depths of sorrow and the fragility of rehabilitation. Its nearest equivalent is Hugh Trevor-Roper’s masterpiece on Sir Edmund Backhouse, the fabulist, serial liar, forger and hermit-baronet of Peking. But whereas Trevor-Roper wrote with a frosty, unforgiving irony, Mount’s tone is a perfect balance of rueful compassion and fair-mindedness.
Aunt Munca married George Mount (‘Unca’), younger brother of Ferdinand’s father, in 1936. In Debrett’s Baronetage (George’s father had been made a baronet by Lloyd George) she was described as the daughter of the ‘late John Anthony Baring of New York’. The couple lived in a hardened, stylish state of