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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 3 February 2001
this book relates the story of Henry Tillotson, from his marriage in 1944 until his death in the 80's, and whilst telling us the tale introduces us to a multitude of other characters along the way, Hanry's wife Margaret who doesn't get out of bed; the Jonathans, the possible fruit of Henry's fathers loins; two young couples visiting Cotteshaw, Henry's house; and of course Calypso Grant puts in an appearance. The people in Mary Wesley's books are people you wish you knew, interesting, kind, funny, irrepressable people, as well as irritating and endearing, above all these are humans, and whilst there can be a feeling of how the other half lives about this book the main feeling is one of being a fly on the wall, desperate to discover the mysteries of each persons life. Wesley deals with such basic human instincts as sex and love in a matter of fact way, which makes them no less shocking, and no less wonderful.
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on 2 September 2015
As a devoted fan of Mary Wesley, this for some reason is a novel I had ommitted to read until now. In my opinion, "vintage Mary", a bitingly incisive comedy of manners, involving many fascinating characters, and set around Henry Tillotson, who marries the dreadful Margaret just to save her from internment in the War, and is stuck with her for evermore in his run-down stately home. The novel also features the immortal Calypso ("Camomile Lawn") in much more than just the cameo role she plays in the other novels.
Sad to think that there will be no more Mary Wesley novels. A truly great novelist.
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on 6 September 2013
I read this on holiday, having found it in the cottage I was renting. It seems difficult now to remember why there was so much fuss about Mary Wesley in the 80s/90s. The Camomile Lawn, her best known book, was, it's true, a great evocation of a certain slice of British wartime experience (although, unusually, improved in the TV adaptation). But this is just awful: slight plot, absurd characters. I think that one of Wesley's appeals was that she was an elderly woman who wrote 'frankly' about sex - but here that appears in the most absurd ways e.g. a woman announcing - with no social or psychological context, and no further mention - that her husband 'buggers' her. It's the worst kind of pseudo-sophistication. Pretty pointless reviewing it now, of course. But I suppose it does tell us something about the way that fashion works in publishing.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 3 December 2015
Tall, dark and attractive Henry Tillotson, marries beautiful divorcee, Margaret, in Egypt during WW2. After the war, he brings her to his country home, Cotteshaw, where upon arrival, Margaret promptly blacks Henry's eye and retires to her room taking refuge in her bed. She does not emerge from her bedroom, and indeed from her bed, for some time afterwards and Henry, realizing that his wife is doing her best to undermine and spite him, continues to live his life without her company. One summer, he invites two young friends, James and Matthew to stay, and they bring with them two lively young women, Barbara and Antonia, to whom they propose marriage during their stay. However, not one to be outshone by the arrival of two attractive young woman, Margaret decides to rise from her bed for the first time in ages, and her arrival at the garden dinner party results in some rather devastating and bizarre consequences. Over the following years, as James, Matthew, Barbara and Antonia spend weekends and holidays with the Tillotsons (whose dysfunctional marriage continues to limp along despite Margaret's increasing eccentricities, her antipathy towards Henry and her spending practically her whole time reclining in bed) the reader shares in their life experiences and we finally learn what induced Henry to marry Margaret and what he does to cope with the tricky situation he has landed himself him...

Beautifully and stylishly written - as always with Mary Wesley - this novel was a bit of a mixed reading experience, due to the large amounts of dialogue, the melodramatic scene setting and the almost 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' atmosphere to parts of this story, which made it seem more like a play than a novel. This resulted in me feeling as if I were an observer on the sidelines rather than allowing me to become as involved with the protagonists and their predicaments as I would have liked to have been - which was a shame, as I have thoroughly enjoyed the other novels I have read by the wonderful Mary Wesley. So, although there were some entertaining parts to this story and it was certainly worth a read - especially if you are a completist - for me, this was not one of the author's best, and it's most probably not one that I would revisit.

3 Stars.

I would, however, happily recommend the following by Mary Wesley: Jumping The Queue;The Camomile Lawn;Harnessing Peacocks; and Part Of The Furniture.
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Typical Mary Wesley: acerbic, sparse, pacey storyline. This one centred around a troublesome wife Margaret, who lives most her life in bed; her long-suffering husband Henry, who has a web of secrets - and a growing number of secrets as the book unfolds, and a group of friends and neighbours who are regular house-guests at his country estate. A novel full of humour, eccentric characters from the English middle classes, sex and, oft-times, rather odd behaviours. Would people really have said what they said, when they said it? Maybe, maybe not, and let's not forget the cockatoo either! But never mind, she was one of a kind and such original writing behoves reading. Good holiday entertainment
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on 10 August 2014
An enjoyable read quite funny, I always look forward to Mary Wesley's books probably because I can relate to the times set in the early 20th Century is she cocking a snoop.
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on 17 October 2014
Most enjoyable
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on 6 August 2013
Mary Wesley is in my opinion one of the finest writers of her generation. She writes of life, love and loss in her own inimitable style.
I love all her books.
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on 8 July 2013
I am a big fan of Mary Wesley and I am now searching for other works and will put this one on my list of swaps
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