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The Camomile Lawn [Paperback]

Mary Wesley
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

1 Jun 2006

Behind the large house, the fragrant camomile lawn stretches down to the Cornish cliffs. Here, in the dizzying heat of August 1939, five cousins have gathered at their aunt's house for their annual ritual of a holiday. For most of them it is the last summer of their youth, with the heady exhilarations and freedoms of lost innocence, as well as the fears of the coming war.

The Camomile Lawn moves from Cornwall to London and back again, over the years, telling the stories of the cousins, their family and their friends, united by shared losses and lovers, by family ties and the absurd conditions imposed by war as their paths cross and recross over the years. Mary Wesley presents an extraordinarily vivid and lively picture of wartime London: the rationing, imaginatively circumvented; the fallen houses; the parties, the new-found comforts of sex, the desperate humour of survival - all of it evoked with warmth, clarity and stunning wit. And through it all, the cousins and their friends try to hold on to the part of themselves that laughed and played dangerous games on that camomile lawn.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099499142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099499145
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Told with elegance and asperity by the superb Anna Massey (Sunday Telegraph)

'Anna Massey could read the telephone directory and I would listen. When she's reading a writer of the quality of Mary Wesley, it becomes a real pleasure.' (Oxford Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A vivid and lively picture of wartime London and Cornwall as seen through the eyes of five cousins.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The intensity of life in war-time. 20 Jun 2006
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book opens on the very eve of the Second World War, with five cousins on holiday at the Cornish home of their Aunt Helena and Uncle Richard (all upper middle class). Four of them (two young women, two young men) are aged 19 or 20, the fifth is Sophy who is just ten. There are also the twin sons of the local rector, who has also taken in a Jewish refugee couple, Max and Monika, from Austria. The novel traces the lives principally of these eleven characters during the war, much of it set in London. Under the intensity of life in war-time, the young people lose any conventional inhibitions they might possibly have had under other circumstances. (I say `possibly', because uninhibited behaviour had been the mark of certain young socialites in the 1920s). One can hardly keep track of the sexual permutations and combinations between them. Even middle-aged Uncle Richard and Aunt Helena have unorthodox liaisons. It is all rather rackety, and in the first half of the novel one feels the characters are driven more by sensuality than by anything deeper, with emotions only superficially engaged. But in the end they do become more deeply involved emotionally; some psychological complexities then emerge (especially for Helena and Calypso) and the reader's sympathies slowly become engaged with them. Most of the story is told as a war-time narrative; but at the end of some chapters we move on forty years or so, when those who are then still alive are converging for Max's funeral and look back on those years; so we learn something about what has happened to them since.

Some of the characters come more alive than others in the book. Especially successful, I think, is the portrait of Uncle Richard, for the most part just avoiding caricature.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Holiday Read 4 Jan 2008
Format:Paperback
I read this book on holiday in Cornwall and couldn't put it down. There are quite a few characters to get used to, but once you have done that they all grow on you (some more than others). The author writes from experience and you believe every word on the page. The book starts just as war is declared and you know that their world is about to changed forever. They go off to war, some survive some die, they get married and divorced and have affairs, they have children. The book follows them through the ups and downs of the privilidged in London and jumps back and forward in time to a funeral being held. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is so good 16 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I own a bookshop and read prolifically but for some reason Mary Wesley slipped me by until her autobiography "WIld Mary" was published. I subsequently read the Camomile lawn and was entranced with the storyline, the effects of the Second World War on the characters and their relationships. I particularly liked the way the story looked back from one of the character's funerals. I liked this so much I had to get the DVD and the Audio cassette all of which were excellent.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
What was living through the Second World War like? Mary Wesley takes us through the relationships and experiences of young people caught up in the 'great events' but here we get the personal, feeling aspects. Told with subtle humor and acceptance of the human condition. A fine and original master of the English language as practiced by an older woman writer who can look back on the whole of life and know what it all comes down to. This she does well as a kind of female philosopher of feeling, nothing like the thinking males tend to do. This will warm your heart and ask you gently, just how are you doing with your life?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Mary Wesley (1912-2002) wrote her first adult novel at the age of 71. Comparisons ARE odious and to compare apples with stepladders is clearly a daft activity, but, still, having finished reading Wesley's best known book, The Camomile Lawn, set mainly in amoral times on the home front during the Second World War, and currently reading, with not a little irritation, Bret Easton Ellis' The Rules of Attraction, about a group of amoral varsity students, I found myself muttering, in bored irritation `Should have waited till you were 70, chum'

Wesley is darkly comedic, stylish, sharply observed and extremely witty. I had the feeling I sometimes get at the theatre, when the curtain rises to reveal the set, and at the speaking of the first line of dialogue, you instantly know `sure-fire, everyone knows what they are doing here, I'm in for a great couple of hours, and can let myself be guided by the play and the performers'

I had that feeling with the sharp, arresting beginning of The Camomile Lawn

`Helena Cuthbertson picked up the crumpled Times by her sleeping husband and went to the flower room to iron it'

In a single sentence of fabulous show-not-tell we know the class of the characters, can detect a relationship of dissatisfaction, and know this will be a barbed and witty comedy. (It was the detail of `the flower room', somehow which did it for me - the precise absurdity of that image which spelt the wit and the comedy)

Her book is set on the eve of war being declared. The central characters are a middle aged couple with a complicated set of nephews and nieces in their late teens, the teenage sons of neighbours, and two Jewish refugees staying with those neighbours.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good read
Published 2 days ago by Karen Reid
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I was so pleased to find this book. It is an excellent and sometimes humorous read. Set in WW2
Published 4 days ago by Mrs. V. A. Saunders
2.0 out of 5 stars Did not like the style of writing
Did not like the style of writing, and the jogging around from past to present. Have not read Mary Wesley before, but would not buy another one by her.
Published 14 days ago by Mrs J A Bradforth
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good
Published 19 days ago by j g hames
5.0 out of 5 stars Well read classic
This is a superbly read version of this classic story of life in wartime Britain.The only drawback from my point of view is that it is abridged.
Published 1 month ago by Peter Boardman
4.0 out of 5 stars Camomile Lawn
Having seen the TV drama several years ago, I expected the written version to be equally as good, and I was not disappointed. Read more
Published 1 month ago by bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars re-read treasure
Wonderful. Enjoyed it years and years ago - had forgotten how evocative of the period and thought provoking it is. Great book.
Published 3 months ago by GS
5.0 out of 5 stars Kindle
It is a few years since I read this, and when Kindle first came out, I didn't think I would like reading that way, as I always buy books, but since using several times, I am afraid... Read more
Published 3 months ago by M. Reddy
4.0 out of 5 stars Irresistible charm
Mary Wesley captures the released freedoms created by World War Two in the spirited characters of Helena (older generation), Calypso and Polly (younger generation) and their... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Scott-mandeville
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is an old friend.
Mary Wesley at her very best. A real page turner of a book an old friend that I never tier of returning too.
Published 5 months ago by ristine bedford
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