Customer Reviews


45 Reviews
5 star:
 (23)
4 star:
 (16)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Holiday Read
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...
Published on 4 Jan 2008 by Ken Woodmixer

versus
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The intensity of life in war-time.
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...
Published on 20 Jun 2006 by Ralph Blumenau


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

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 (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Paperback)
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. Calypso, the eldest of the cousins, and Sophy, the youngest, have some personality, as do Max and Monika; some other characters are not rounded out at all. All of them talk in short laconic sentences (the greater part of the book consists of dialogue), and only Richard, Max and Monika have a way of speaking which is in any way distinctive.

There is humour in this book and pathos; it shows that the intensity of war-time life brought its pleasures as well as its sorrows. It is a good read, but I think it lacks the subtlety of a great novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Holiday Read, 4 Jan 2008
By 
Ken Woodmixer (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is so good, 16 Jun 2009
By 
Jerz Jurkiewicz "Jerz" (Guernsey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book for the feeling level of people living life, 16 Dec 2000
By A Customer
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?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That apple scented childhood, and the leaving of the Garden of Eden, 12 Nov 2013
By 
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (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. The geography is well heeled Cornwall (Roseland Peninsula, idyllic) and London in the blitz.

There are double time-lines as well, the progression of events forward from the opening, on the eve of an annual visit by the nephews and nieces, for a last, golden summer before War, and, some forty years later, these same characters (or some of them) are journeying separately or together to a gathering, the purpose of which will unfold.

Wesley therefore is able to take our central characters from youth and middle age, and jump them forward to their own middle age and old age, so we, as readers, are constantly seeing past and present, who they are, who they were, who they become, each stage given equal weight.

It was, by all accounts, a `rackety time'. The Brat pack (Ellis et al) may think they are the shocking ones, but to be honest, they seem just wasted, tame and lame.

What I find interesting about those far off times is that at one and the same moment there is the promise which the sexual energy of youth embodies, the still-playfulness of the child, yet at the same time, the very young were involved in historic events, very adult events indeed. Despite the racket, the characters in Wesley's book have purpose and individuality.

She constructs a very pleasing world, where even minor characters get woven in, more and more tightly, like skeins in a spider's web, drawing back to the centre (that long ago last golden summer)

This book could almost be seen as a textbook for how to write comedy of manners - her craft and wit reminds me very much of Restoration Comedy - the economy of language, clever (but not empty) a glittering surface but with real heart and feeling inside it.

A TV dramatisation (which i didn't see) was broadcast and is available on DVD. Call me a Luddite, but as it is the quality of Wesley's prose, her precise, acerbic writing, in description, not only in dialogue, which so enchants, I have no desire to see this, however well done. Of course, that opening image, and others, can be shown - but sometimes, words really do say more than a thousand pictures ever can!

I received this as an ARC from the epublishing company Open Road Media, who continue to excellently re-publish some classic examples of fine writers from earlier in the twentieth century, giving us very well crafted digitisation of these books. I have discovered, to my chagrin, that some digitisation is pretty crassly done, but Open Road Media appear to embark on their material with craft and love, as befits the quality of the writers they are publishing in this format
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick and easy but enjoyable read, 18 Oct 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This novel, which was made into a TV miniseries in the early 1990s, incorporates many themes and elements of plot which reappear in other Mary Wesley novels: unconventional relationships, heroines with names derived from ancient mythology, twins and cousins, motherhood, love arriving late in life, and the life-changing experience of living through the Second World War on the home front. It's a quick and easy read, involving but not too taxing, with plot developments which may occasionally strain credulity but characters who are fully-fleshed, unconventional and ready to seize whatever opportunities their lives bring.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Irresistible charm, 6 Mar 2014
By 
J. Scott-mandeville "jackie veronica" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Kindle Edition)
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 husbands, lovers, and brothers through the tumultuous and world-upside-down rigours of wartime. Beginning with a vague mystery in the peaceful pre-war summer in Cornwall, the camomile lawn of the family retreat becomes a symbol of permanence and reassurance when everything else is disintegrating. The youngest family member, Sophy, central to the plot, is sent away to school but runs away to join Polly in London.

Mary Wesley bases much of her story on personal experience, particularly in her love of Cornwall where she spent her own childhood summers, and not a few of her characters are based on people she knew. Her lively narrative, filled with good, succinct dialogue, through which the story is mainly told, must have been fed with her own memories, and is immediate, realistic, and believable. The reader is swept into the affairs of Helena, Calypso, and Polly with an enthusiasm and, given that Mary Welsey must have been quite elderly by the time she wrote this novel, but her writing is sharp, witty, and convincing. She begins the novel with the funeral of one of the main characters, and tells the story in a series of long flashbacks interspersed with returns to the funeral, the people of the novel now old and looking back. This works well, and keeps the reader informed and aware.

I enjoyed this novel very much when I first read it years ago and, returning to it recently (2013), I enjoyed it just as much. I then watched the TV series which was beautifully done, accurately adapting the novel, getting the characters right, and using as much of Wesley's original dialogue as possible. I recommend both.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Summer Of '39, 23 May 2013
By 
prisrob "pris," (New England USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Paperback)
review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Paperback)

The Summer of '39, May 23, 2013

This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Paperback)
The summer before the Great War, the family, nieces, nephews and assorted others arrive at the grand house of Helena and Richard. Helena of the money and Richard of the one leg, lost in the war. This is a glorious book you want to consume at one sitting, but wait it out and read it at leisure.

The family Calypso, Walter, Polly, Oliver, Sophy, and the twins who lived in the rectory, were on the train from London to Penzance, a town in Cornwall, UK. This beautiful coastal town was where this family spent their summers. All nieces and nephews of Richard. Helena was the money bag, but she seemed to welcome them. This was to be their last summer together, the big war,which Richard said was not to occur, was to begin later. This is a wonderful family full of the sort of people I would like to meet. Later we get to meet Max and Monika, Jewish refugees who had been placed in a settlement. Richard at the urging of Sophy was able to obtain their release.

We follow this family through the years, their stories told by Each family member, but mainly by Helena,mas she and Hamish travel to a funeral in Penzance. The loves of Calypso who married for money and found true love. Walter off to the war. Polly who loved both twins and couldn't decide in either, Oliver so in love with Calypso but not to be, and Sophy, the young beautiful girl, not loved by Richard or Helena , but the rest of the family loved her. Richard, Helena, Monika and Max, now here was a real story.

The scented camomile lawn at the house by the sea was, for the cousins, the essence of summer. Here was the home they could all come to for peace and quiet and contemplation. Mary Wesley reminds me of my favorite Britsh author , Muriel Spark. The characters really come alive, truly alive. You can see them in your mind's eye. I could vision Calypso's beauty and Sophy's beauty to come. Such wonderful writing, I must read all of Wesley's novels.

Recommended. prisrob 05-23-13
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh What a Lovely War!, 11 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Paperback)
'The Camomile Lawn' opens on the eve of World War II, with five cousins gathering at the home of their Uncle Richard (a one-legged veteran of World War I) and his rich wife Aunt Helena (owner of the house, with its famous 'camomile lawn'). There is Oliver, a romantic dreamer back from the Spanish Civil War, preparing to fight again, against Hitler. There is the beautiful, amoral Calypso, much loved by Oliver but determined to marry for money. There is the practical and kindly Polly, and her brother, the gentle Walter. And there is Sophy, the youngest, the illegitimate child of Richard's dead sister, rejected by her Aunt Helena and about to be sentenced to several years at boarding school. Also at the house are Max, a German refugee and fiercely talented violinist, and his wife Monika, and the twin sons of the local vicar, both in love with Polly. The novel takes us through the war years, with periodic 'flash-forwards' to the 1970s, showing us how the war effects each character. Calypso does indeed marry for money. During the war, she embraces promiscuity, and claims to have no strong feelings, but her emotions when her rich Scots husband Hector, many years her senior, joins up to fight, surprise her. Walter and Oliver join up at once, but nothing can prepare them for the horrors of war. Polly enters an unconventional love affair (or more than one) and joins army intelligence, using work to keep her sane as the war brings her more and more tragedies. And Sophy, who secretly adores Oliver, struggles on at boarding school, longing to be loved and to be accepted by her older cousin, disdaining discipline and eventually running away from school to London. Meanwhile Helena, despite being tone-deaf, falls in love with Max, and Richard with Monika (not a spoiler as this happens early in the book), Monika combats the horrors of rationing, and Max travels the UK, becoming increasingly famous as a violinist, and seducer (though Helena remains his only longterm mistress).

As a description of how war affected ordinary (albeit upper middle-class) people, this is a very interesting read. Wesley keeps a good balance between wit and poignancy, and her descriptions of how life somehow went on, and even for some people became more exciting, even as the bombs were falling, are convincing and involving. She can at times be very funny (particularly in some of the scenes involving Richard), and she captures the inner world of the child Sophy well for the most part. For anyone interested in the history of World War II on the home front, this is a very good read. However, I must say I didn't really take to many of the characters. I do not find the rather arrogant, self-involved and brittle female characters who populate Wesley's novels likeable on the whole, or indeed very interesting. Helena, for example, who features largely in the book, came across as incredibly selfish, and in certain respects rather brutal, and I found it hard to believe in her relationship with the volatile Max. Calypso appeared a monster of narcissism for the bulk of the book, though I got more interested in her in the final section. Polly could have been interesting if Wesley had concentrated more on her work (after all, not many women worked in army intelligence) and less on her sexual exploits. Monika would have served as a good contrast to the English women in the book if we'd had more of the story from her point of view, but she tended to hover in the background, and again, Wesley tended to resort to stereotypes in writing about her - the practical European woman, slaughtering guinea pigs to feed the family, wringing her hands and threatening to kill herself out of grief. Few of the men were particularly interesting - Wesley depicted Richard with a fair degree of wit, but Max slid too easily into the role of caricature 'temperamental and oversexed artist', particularly as Wesley seemed to have no interest in WHY he was so promiscuous (he does, however, have some likeable moments, as when he takes Sophy to hear Menuhin play). Oliver, the twins, the kindly Walter and the other young men in the novel were thinly portrayed - this was a real pity in the case of Oliver as his experiences in Spain and his development as a writer would have made interesting reading. But all Wesley really seemed to be interested in with the bulk of the young men in the novel was who was sleeping with who. Perhaps most disappointing was what happened to Sophy, who begins the novel (like Flora in 'A Sensible Life', see earlier review) as a very interesting and original child, but whose life does not develop in any interesting way, and who, as an older woman, seems just to be drifting, with no real emotional or sexual ties, and no career, until her life suddenly changes in the final pages of the book. For all that she herself had a rather unconventional life, Wesley is not a great advocate of feminism - her novels all seem to end with the idea that marriage is the only real vocation for women (at least, the ones I've read), and unconventional and interesting children like Sophy or Flora never seem to develop careers of their own; they simply seem to wait, like princesses in a fairytale, for the middle-aged Prince Charming to arrive.

Four stars for interesting historical content, but not really recommended if you're a reader who likes in-depth psychological portrayals of characters. A pleasant, light read in the end.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, 21 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Camomile Lawn (Kindle Edition)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel which was funny in parts and also outrageous as the story began just pre second world war era and ended fifty years later. This purchase was quite inexpensive! and so have ordered another book by Mary Wesley which I intend to devour while relaxing on holiday.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Camomile Lawn
The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley (Paperback - 1 Jun 2006)
6.29
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews