Harnessing Peacocks
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Harnessing Peacocks

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  537 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Mary Wesley creates one of the most enchanting heroines of recent literature in this story of independence, wit, and sensuality. Nineteen-year-old Hebe flees her family to avoid the forced abortion of her illegitimate child. What follows is at times poignant, touching, and in the end, surprising.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1985)
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For those of you who are not familiar with Mary Wesley, here's a brief introduction;

She was kick-ass with a capital K.

Need more info? Fair enough. Born in 1912 she lived till the fairly grand age of 90 and racked up ten novels and a CBE all of which was achieved after her 70th birthday.

When not writing best sellers and scandalising what was left of so called "polite society" in the 1980s she was ( and this is supposition on my part) busy outliving and outdoing most people who were less than h...more
Again Mary Wesley took me into a world that I have little or no knowledge of. Hebe the main character is a single mother with a talent for two things cooking and love making. She manages her life just fine with these two talents keeping her life in order, until there is an unexpected upset to the balance. There is so much spirit and love put into Mary Wesley's characters that you actually wish that you could sit down to coffee with them. I will be sure to reread this story again as it was anoth...more
Can a woman whose family holds a family conference to decide and plan her abortion manage successfully to steal away in the night and run away to make a life for herself and her unborn child? It appears so. Hebe lives in a quiet English village with her son, Silas, and manages by working as a private chef to a few elderly ladies for a few weeks at a time, and a prostitute to select men, a group she calls, her Syndicate. The latter career is of course, not a well known fact, and most of her clien...more
Grace Harwood
I love Mary Wesley's work - it is so easy to read and is always a witty journey with engaging characters. I've read most of her books and I always keep them after because they stand reading again and again. This is a case in point - this is the second time I've read this book and it is lovely, although it's not as strong as some of her other ones (e.g Part of the Furniture, The Camomile Lawn). The story follows Hebe, pregnant and hiding in a cupboard, listens to her stuffy upper-class grandparen...more
I think Mary Wesley is most famous for her book The Camomile Lawn. She is an author that is worth trying out, if you haven’t already. This book is not one of her best – my favourite to date has been The Vacillations of Poppy Carew – but still quite enjoyable. She tends to write about the same sort of characters a lot, and in this book I didn’t find her set of characters as likeable or convincing.

One thing I have liked about Mary Wesley’s books is that her heroines tend to be unconventional, but...more
Malvina Yock
I had no idea what to expect when I sat down with this book 'cold', reading it because I'm going to a lecture about the author and this particular book from her works. At first I struggled with where it was going, then started to see the fine line of irony Wesley was laying down down...and then it blew into a farce, a comedy of manners, and was deliciously entertaining. By the end I was laughing. It's sexy, bright and unapologetic with humorously odd characters (or are they more normal than the...more
Louise Beilby
This is the only Mary Wesley book I've read, and it was something of a curiosity to me. The prose style is not at all flowery and deals with everything - sex, disaster, excitement - in the same, matter-of-fact way. I don't know if I would seek out any more of Wesley's work, because it felt strangely bleak and unhappy, even though it has what I suppose you would call a happy ending. Perhaps it was the ugliness of the setting and the fact that, with the exception of Hebe and her son, none of the c...more
Pamela Mclaren
A young woman finds herself pregnant and surprised that her family aren't going to be supportive (in fact, they plan to get her an abortion without consulting her), she runs away and 13 years later, the book really begins. Because Hebe is living life on her terms as a cook and a "tart," and supporting her son, Silas, surrounded by a loving group of people who are both clients and friends. Everything goes well until the separate strands of her life become tangled — her son goes on a trip to an is...more
This is close to being my favourite novel by Wild Mary. It has a tight cast of characters that interact in a series of scenes that are a little like a French farce. Most of the characters are 'nice people' or 'the right sort', and a fair proportion of those are not particularly nice (but they are the right sort). The book was written long after Mary Wesley concluded that she had wasted a lot of time sleeping with Old Etonians, and it reflects her conclusions about that class.

It's a funny book, f...more
Picked this up at a library book sale, based on recommendation of a volunteer and fellow knitter.
Jul 03, 2014 D rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: english
Excellent light entertainment.
Not deep literature, just an improbable story well told. Nowadays it might be shelved in the library under Romance except it starts with a young woman running away from her grandparents to escape their plan to have her unborn child aborted. Wesley skillfully avoids stereotypes in drawing her characters, who manage to be interesting and seemingly quite real types. I enjoyed this book utterly and plan to read more Wesley.
Wesley has a gimlet eye that she runs over 'contemporary' romance (bear in mind that this was published while the Cold War still rumbled on) in her customary acerbic fashion. It's pleasant, but at times irritatingly vague -- Jim seems old enough to be Hebe's father, rather than her lover. Still, there are worse ways of passing a Sunday afternoon.
The main character, Hebe, has found an interesting and unconventional way of supporting her son as he attends an expensive boarding school in England.
She holds her life in tight control but her system becomes unravelled and she has to open up to herself and her son. Some wonderful old characters and some shockers. I enjoyed the book.
A single mother sends her son to boarding school, and works hard to keep him there. Some lively clashes, a series of coincidences, and a mostly satisfying conclusion. An unfortunate extensive use of bad language spoils an otherwise enjoyable (if unlikely) book.
Very Muriel Spark-ish comedy, only twice as long and without any murders. I spent a lot of the book wishing there would be three fewer principal characters, but by the end I didn't mind so much. Not completely sold on the ending, either...
Liz Fenwick
I smiled my way through this book enjoying the characters and their predicaments. I knew the story having seen the tv production years ago but I enjoyed the intricacies of the novel more. The intertwining of lives was brilliant.
Notcathy J
Cathy's has an older cover than the one shown.
Cathy has read the usual hundred-some-odd books this year. I'm entering them all tonight, but I will try to get some basic remarks from her about them sometime in the next few days.
Sue Russell
Hard to know how to rate these Mary Wesley books. I really love them (perhaps some a little more than others), but it's been a long time since I read them, and I don't quite remember which is which.
Betsy Prioleau
Here's one of the most charming, unconventional heroines in literature, Hebe Rutter in a delicious Mary Wesley novel. Fabulous summer reading, a real upper
What a single mother can do only in fiction, but a good read all the same. Funny most of the time and some regrets along the way.
Louise Coquio
Read this years ago and loved it - just reading it again after finding my old copy at my Grandmother's house.
Enjoyed the first half - thought the ending was rather annoying.
Was a 'bag book'
Not as good as the camomile lawn but thought provoking all the same !!
An easy "Red Hat No Knickers" read, if somewhat dated by now.
I just liked the title, so I read it. Thought it was pretty good.

My favorite Mary Wesley novel. Highly recommend.
Hebe was a bit of a Mary Sue, but this was a fun quick read.
Least favorite of Wesley's novels so far.
Mar 19, 2011 Susan marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Essex Library book sale March 2011
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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
More about Mary Wesley...
The Camomile Lawn A Sensible Life Part Of The Furniture Not That Sort of Girl The Vacillations Of Poppy Carew

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