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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 19 November 2015
Stunning & inspirational.
I read this book years ago & lost it.
Wonderful to be reunited. Mary Wesley is a legend.
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on 11 March 2015
Very interesting and readable written biography. I enjoyed it a lot.
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on 27 July 2014
Well written. So very interesting.
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on 7 April 2017
Enjoyed the book.
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on 11 June 2009
I very much enjoyed Mary Wesley's books themelves - but had always imagined Mary herself as an ex school teacher character who hadn't started writing until she retired. I had never read, heard or seen anything about Mary herself, other than as a brief mention about her not starting to write until she was 70. My surprise was extreme therefore to find Mary was absolutely and completly different to how I had assumed. Certainly the rather unconventional characters and situations that abound in her own books now make sense and are obviously very much the based upon her own life, family and friends. This biography has obviously been very well researched and is very readable - it also seems to me to paint a relatively unbiased picture of a fascinating woman. A woman that one does not always feel sympathy with - but who obviously had many many facets to her character, some good some bad just like the rest of us. Certainly worth a read.
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on 17 November 2006
I've loved Mary Wesley's books since my late teens having fallen in love with the BBC TV adaptation of the Camomile Lawn. Having never been particarly enamoured by biographies in general - and esp the idea of pseudo-celebrity ones of 20 year olds - this book was really wonderful and has made me want to re-read all her books again ('Not that Sort of Girl' being my favourite novel).

This book was about an extremely interesting, complex, human individual who had lived such a full and interesting life which was IMHO well worth writing about.

It is hard to believe that anyone could manage to get through as many lovers as she did in her younger years ;-) or how she could have possibly managed to juggle all those clandestine meetings at the Ritz etc-that was a feat in itself and was exciting enough that it read like a novel and left you wanting to know more! :-O

It was gratfying that Mary found a predominantly happy relationship with her second husband and that she managed to dazzle and shine through ingreat poverty as well as wealth & found success in her writing.

I was particularly interested by the insight into her world as a mother and how she seemed quite undisturbed with the distance between her and her children most of the time and how she resolved (or in some cases didnt) the consequences of that. I love her wit and the fact that she wasnt a maryred figure who suffered fools gladly considering some of the awful situations she faced.

Patrick Marham's research is flawless and gives a fulfilling picture of Mary Siepmann through letters, press articles, personal accounts etc - he has all angles covered!

A brilliant read for anyone (esp Wesley fans) who enjoy life this biography shows that anything could be around life's corner & made me quite look forward to getting older! :-D
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This biography has yet to be published here in the States, so I ignored the nasty dollar/pound ratio and sent to Amazon UK for it. I was delighted and found it fascinating. My only wish is that it had been longer. It felt that, in some part, it was ever so slightly hurried, or perhaps overly edited, especially in her later writing years. But then I am so intrigued by this late life author that I would have loved the book to be twice as long. Nevertheless, it is an excellant biography of a unique and fascinating woman, as well as an interesting, vital picture of the WWII era against which her books were set. I'm most grateful to Patrick Marnham for giving we Wesley fans this little treasure.
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on 4 August 2006
It is often said that to write interesting books, an author should have had interesting experiences. This biography is a fascinating account of the life of a headstrong, courageous woman who lived her life head-on. I absolutely loved the book, and intend to re-read all the novels in order. Many, many happy hours revelling in the courage of her characters, now seen in the light of their creator. Thank you Patrick.
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on 1 February 2009
I have always enjoyed reading Mary Wesley's books. I enjoy her unique phraseology, for instance 'the matricide' in Jumping the Queue is never named, and her unusual use of verbs. From her biography we learn of her scant formal education, her enormous joie de vivre, her uncritical attitude to the morals of her age. We understand how her books confront some of the difficulties she faced in her life and she how she exorcised painful memories through the triumph of her characters. I ended the book feeling more than ever that I would have liked to have known her personally.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 February 2013
Mary Wesley became a bestselling novelist in her seventies. Before the age of 70, she published little, and had little success as a writer - but the content of her life at times was almost a novel in itself. Born Mary Farmar into an upper-class military family, she was neglected by her parents, and compensated with wild behaviour (her mother later told her she got through sixteen governesses because none of them could handle her). She was dumped for two years in a boarding school while her family were in India - a vague attempt to educate her properly at Queen's College in London (Katherine Mansfield's old school) came to nothing when her mother decided to send her to finishing school instead. Sent out to India, she continued her wild behaviour, and had numerous suitors (she was very beautiful as a young woman, and remained very handsome to the end of her life). The family moved back to the UK, where Mary enjoyed life as a debutante and again had many suitors. As is often the case (according to Anthony Trollope, in any case) she married the one least suited to her - Carol Eady, Lord Swinfen, a gentle aristocrat, but one that she had remarkably little in common with. From early on in their marriage, Mary had affairs. During World War II, the couple all but separated, Mary moving down to Cornwall to live at Boskenna, the family home of one of her friends (and the inspiration for the house in 'The Camomile Lawn', among other venues in her books). She continued to have many affairs, including one serious one, with a Czech refugee and academic, Heinz Ziegler. Heinz was almost certainly the father of her second child, and (though she doesn't seem to have been faithful to him for long) might have become her second husband. However, he was killed fighting towards the end of World War II. Mary was deeply upset, but her grief took the form of 'going a bit crazy and having lots of affairs' rather than simply mourning. At the end of World War II, one of these affairs, with a penniless writer, Eric Siepmann, turned into a passionate romance. She would remain faithful to Siepmann until his death. Mary divorced from Carol Swinfen at the end of the war; she and Eric then faced years of difficulties with Eric's wife, who refused him a divorce and tried to make their lives as hellish as possible (she cost Eric two jobs as a journalist). Finally, Mary helped Eric get a divorce, and the couple married. They converted to Catholicism, had a child, and - after Eric lost another good job - tried to make a living as writers. Unfortunately, neither were successful - Eric had particular problems as he found it virtually impossible to finish anything - and in the end they retreated to a cottage on Dartmoor, where they earned the bulk of their money from private language tutoring (languages and a good knowledge of literature were two skills they shared). Eric's death from Parkinson's Disease (he bravely committed suicide rather than wait to get to the final, hellish stages of the illness) left Mary desolate, and nearly penniless. A near brush with death herself a few years later seems to have encouraged her to keep trying as a writer, and to try to make positive changes to her life. She bought a tiny cottage in Totnes, had an affair (which evolved into a warm friendship) with playwright Robert Bolt, and got her third children's book and first adult novel published. From then on, as she turned out a novel nearly every year, into her early eighties, her life was steadily on the up, and she became hugely popular as a writer and as a person.

I have read a couple of Mary Wesley's novels and had mixed feelings about them, so was interested to find out more about the writer herself. Patrick Marnham writes well, and his book is full of interesting information, and also very readable. I didn't find myself taking to the young Mary very much - she seemed very selfish (like the brittle young women in many of her novels, who are very self-preoccupied), and her affairs seemed to have been conducted partly out of the thrill of being a young femme fatale, as well as out of interest in the men she slept with. Particularly chilling was the account of how she 'had lots of affairs' after Heinz Ziegler's death and her infidelities to him while he was alive (Mary herself admitted that she behaved badly there). However, Mary's childhood and sense of not being loved by her parents might explain a lot. And as the biography moved onto Mary's marriage and her later life, I found myself admiring her a lot - for her simple faith in Catholicism, for her bravery, her determination to keep going as a writer, and her love for her husband and three sons. One can't help rejoicing when the book reaches the point where Wesley at last find success. And her death was also remarkably brave - and witty. The one thing I did feel was missing from the book was more description of Wesley's novels - but I suppose a biography can't also be a work of criticism (unless you deliberately set out to write a book in this way, as Carole Angier did with her life of Jean Rhys). The biography hasn't changed my view of Mary Wesley as a writer, and I'm not desperately keen to read more of her books, but it has made me ultimately admire her as a person. An enjoyable and moving read.
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