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Camomile Lawn

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  2,136 Ratings  ·  168 Reviews
On an expanse of sweet-smelling grass at the edge of the Cornwall cliffs, a family gathers on one of the last halcyon days before World War II. But for five unconventional, adolescent cousins - Polly and Walter, who are brother and sister; Oliver, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War; the illegitimate , orphaned Sophie; and the beautiful, self-assured Calypso - the camomile ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 13th 1992 by Black Swan (first published January 1st 1984)
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Community Reviews

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Petra Eggs
Sub-The Forsyte Saga frippery. This is not a compliment, it doesn't have the depth of characters or development of plot of Galsworthy's epic novel. Sub-Night and Day frippery. This is a compliment, it doesn't have the awful pretension and snobbery that Virginia Woolf could never avoid in her life or her work. So the book is essentially a quite well written saga of some not terribly interesting people who have a lot of sex and a lot of money just like in the two aforementioned novels.

The plot is
B the BookAddict
Jun 23, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Goodreads
Shelves: fiction

My appreciation of The Camomile Lawn was fed by three sources; one being the knowledge that this novel was written when Wesley was 72 and it was only her second novel for adults. The second was the novel's authentic immediacy; Wesley does not bother with many descriptive passages and she very quickly sheds the constraints of who said what. Thirdly, in 1984 at 72, Wesley has an amazingly sprite open-mindedness; an astonishingly frank outlook about sex. You might easily get the idea she may be spe
Paul Bryant
Sep 06, 2008 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Here is a novel which is of a very particular type, it’s almost (but not) a self-parody of the clipped we-don’t-do-emotion (well, we do, but we don’t go on about it) British School of No Nonsense. It’s about a family of cousins and others surviving or not through World War Two. They’re all fairly posh. They know how to tell a good claret from a bad one. They’re the lower level of the upper crust.

The women in the story demonstrate in hectic abandon one of the untrumpeted taboos of history, that
Jan 20, 2014 Shovelmonkey1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who grew out of the Famous Five but wonder what might have happened
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: hearsay (not the band)
I'd heard good things about this book and duly sought it out like a sort of bibliophilic blood hound. When I say I'd heard good things I didn't actually know anything about it; the title and the inclusion of the word Camomile immediately planted seeds of ideas including tameness, anodine blandness and a sort of natural flavour which isn't necessarily to everyone's taste.

Bam! Wrong!

This book is World War II with sexy edges and a sexual liberation that people rightly or wrongly do not ever associ
Aug 14, 2009 Wayne marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wayne by: a distant bell and a wee biography
Why did I bother to buy this book yesterday whose title rang a very faint bell and whose author rang absolutely none??!!??
Because I read this when I opened the cover:

The Camomile Lawn

Mary Wesley was born as Mary Farmar in 1912
to an upperclass family and grew up a rebel
who believed that she was her mother's least
favourite child.Like many girls of her back
ground, she married for escape and her first
marriage, to Lord Swinfen, was brief.In 1944
she met Eric Siepmann,an unsuccessful writer
This is a wartime story, largely set in Cornwall and London during the days immediately before WWII and the following six years, as we watch different generations deal with going to war, sending loved ones off, managing with privation and bombardment and lives turned up side down as well as changing behavioral codes. War changed lives in so many ways.

Along side that story is the more modern one of survivors of the earlier time, all on their way to a funeral of one of their own. Now the former "y
Aug 08, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I'm not sure what the point of this book really was...the story of an extended family set in WWII London and Cornwall. The book jumps back and forth between the war experiences and the future when most of the characters are heading to a funeral and reminiscing about those times. These people need to expand their social circle because they all just sleep with each other throughout the book. Cousins with cousins, aunts & uncles with nephews & nieces, a few neighbors get into the mix and th ...more
Nov 21, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorites. I loved it so much I named two of my children after characters in this book.
Apr 02, 2013 Ditta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some time now I do carework for the elderly in the UK. People in their late 80's or even 90's, whose young years play out on the pages of this book. Often they relate to me their war-time experiences, in fact it seems, that - very understandibly - those years left the deepest marks on their lives. It struck me as strange, or weird even, that some of them spoke with quite some relish about the war years (just like Polly does in the novel). Reading this book (haven't finished yet) helps me to ...more
Mirren Jones
Jan 26, 2013 Mirren Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Wesley has been on my 'to read' list for a very long time. I had heard that she didn't have her first book published until she was in her 70's and that she'd had amazing success after this, her 'breakthrough' novel. So when I saw it on the library shelf last week I grabbed it.

Written in 1984 the language is obviously not quite contemporary, but see past that and you will find a beautifully crafted novel, full of surprises, twists and turns, which will keep you guessing until the end. The no
May 20, 2015 Meghan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

I requested this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Open Road Media to allow me to read the eBook version of this book.


In the beginning of this book, five cousins - Calypso, Walter, Polly, Oliver, Sophy and the twins - are spending their holiday in their aunt house in a town in Cornwall. Their favorite place during this last summer holiday before the beginning

Jun 05, 2011 Lizzie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2011
A novel about a group of English cousins at the eve of WWII and what happened to them in the war, with flash forwards to the present day. We see much of the action through the eyes of Sophy, the odd girl out because she's much younger than the others and because of her Anglo-Eurasian race. As in other England at war novels, the war gives these young people opportunities for adventures – sexual ones – that they wouldn't have had in conservative pre-war days. There are some interesting twists in t ...more
David Manns
I saw the TV adaptation of this years ago and finally got round to reading the book. Strangely, I was disappointed. There's no discernible plot and some of the characters, particularly Aunt Helena are hard to like. The book follows a group of cousins and their families through the war years from their last summer together in Cornwall in August 1939. There are also flash-forwards to the funeral of one of the characters in the 1980's, where various story strands get resolved, sort of. The characte ...more
Mar 18, 2008 Blaire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I've read quite a lot Mary Wesley's work, and I think this is one of her better efforts. Wesley does a masterful job of unfolding her story about an extended family in the years surrounding WWII. The book is very character-driven. As always, her characters are kind of quirky and surprising and in this book there are a lot of them. Shifting back and forth in time, and using multiple points of view, Wesley progressively develops her characters and reveals the relationships among them. It makes for ...more
Aug 01, 2009 Kay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book because I recently met the illegitimate son of Mary Wesley, who published her first novel at 70 (this was her second) and then wrote nine more that all did well and some of which were best-sellers. Set in England in 1939 and then up to the 1980s -- many intertwined, very upper class English characters. Great moments, and quite good overall, with some slower bits and an unfortunate name for the most beautiful of the young women: Calypso.
I read several of Mary Wesley's books in the eighties so I must have found them appealing but I can't remember anything much about them now. Many other books read decades ago have remained vivid in my memory so I can only conclude that Wesley's characters and plots were not very memorable.
Laura Rittenhouse
This was an interesting story about a group of young people who grew up in a lovely environment and they how their lives changed in large because of WWII. It's in part a coming of age story, in part historical fiction but mainly it is a good character piece.
Jun 24, 2008 Darlene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for a book discussion and just couldn't get through it. It wasn't bad, but neither the story or characters were very interesting-and it seemed very outdated.
Feb 01, 2008 Jan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Why did I waste the time to finish this book? A group of cousins exist in meaningless, selfish, immoral, wasted lives in England (and in the war, off page) during WWII.
Apr 22, 2017 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. It felt like basking in the late afternoon sun.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 09, 2013 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley is a provocative novel that tells the story of five cousins during their annual holiday in a house by the sea. It is the summer of 1939, the last the cousins will share together as the world is on the edge of war. Each of the male couins will be called to duty, hence war and bombings carve their way into the stories. We first meet Aunt Helena and Uncle Richard before all the cousins arrive on the train from London, except Sophy (my favorite character). Sophy live ...more
Mel Campbell
I discovered this book while researching camomile, the herb. It seemed to be completely in my wheelhouse of 'lost innocence Anglophilia' – somewhere between Brideshead Revisited , Atonement and Testament of Youth in following a group of young people before and through war and seeing how it affects them, and in contrasting the golden, privileged innocence of the pre-war period with the disillusionment of worldly adulthood.

I loved it! This isn't the first thing I've read to assert that people
Clare O'Beara
First published in 1984. Helena sits reading 'The Times' on THE CAMOMILE LAWN in Cornwall, while the news is all of impending war. Helena's first husband died in the Great War and her second husband lost a leg in the trenches. Her nephew Oliver has just returned from the Civil War in Spain, gloomy and grown-up, and she hopes the summer influx of young cousins will do them all good.

As official edicts are issued, the young people plan on enlisting, except Calypso who is determined to be a socialit
Dec 30, 2013 Rikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I first came across The Camomile Lawn in the early 90s when it was a must-watch television series. From an author whose literary career had only started when she was in her seventies, it was rather racy and had a cast of well known celebrities. I was intrigued to find out how it came across as a book when I'd already seen it on television.
In fact, I think the enjoyment of the book was enhanced by having a picture of the characters in my mind as the story enfolded.
The camomile lawn was just a pro
Apr 14, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modernist
I originally watched the BBC tele series of the novel and, because it was so dark and I felt certain transitions were "clunky" I had to read the novel. the novel EXPLAINED so much. Really helped me to get a handle on bomb shelters, incest, the apathy of people who believe what their governments tell them (what choice do they have!). Also a very focused portrayal of a family, socially appearing to be functional, but in reality normal by todays standards but "out there" (or were they?) for their c ...more
Nov 09, 2008 Ursula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read most, if not all of Mary Wesley s books. I am fascinated by the characters she creates and the world within which they live. I think she captures a very specific time in English history(post world war 2).

Her take on English society at that time is, i believe truly brilliant. If you read more than one of her books you will see how the characters from each book are all related in some way or another. The connections between each of the characters are so subtle. Just wonderful. Not ever
Nov 21, 2008 Denis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing like those naughty, clever, hilarious and witty female British writers... This novel is one of the very best ever written about wartime London, not only because it rings very true, but also because, unlike so many tragic stories, it dares to show that some people -especially the women- still could have a jolly good time. That doesn't mean there's no emotions, no sadness, no losses. But Wesley's spirit puts this great story under a definitively unusual light, and it is irresistible.
Sep 28, 2009 Bettie☯ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacqueline Burns-Walters
I adore all her books.
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Mary Wesley, CBE (24 June 1912 – 30 December 2002) was a English novelist. She reportedly worked in MI5 during World War II.[citation needed]During her career, she became one of Britain's most successful novelists, selling three million copies of her books, including 10 best-sellers in the last 20 years of her life.

She wrote three children's books, Speaking Terms and The Sixth Seal (both 1969) and
More about Mary Wesley...

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