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The Camomile Lawn

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  3,464 ratings  ·  272 reviews
Behind the large house, the fragrant camomile lawn stretches down to the Cornish cliffs. Here, in the dizzying heat of August 1939, five cousins have gathered at their aunt's house for their annual ritual of a holiday. For most of them it is the last summer of their youth, with the heady exhilarations and freedoms of lost innocence, as well as the fears of the coming war.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Vintage (first published 1984)
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Petra X's driving in a Mustang GT to Key West
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
mark monday
Synopsis: a portrait of an upper class extended family and their circle, immediately before, during, and some 50 years after World War II; portrayed with little pity but a good amount of compassion and dollops of tragedy and humor.

Mary Wesley tells not shows, and that's perfectly fine. She was 72 when she wrote this and she could damn well do as she pleased at that age!

The telling rather than showing is ideal for this story. This is a book about remembrance, about a handful of characters recall
B the BookAddict
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Diane Barnes
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
In not sure what to say about this one. It's been on my list for a while and I found a copy at a used book sale. I've heard good things about Mary Wesley, and how can I not be interested in an author who started writing for adults at the age of 72?

The story starts in 1939 at an Uncle's house in Cornwall, where 5 cousins meet for a month each summer on holiday. Of course, the War begins, and the next 6 years sees the cousins and various other friends and relatives hopping in and out of each other
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 there are ...more
Aug 14, 2009 marked it as to-read
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
Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 21, 2007 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.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
DNF at 27%
Unpleasant people being unpleasant.
Disliked the writing style immensely.
Unable to discern a plot.
That's it in a nutshell. Life is too short to read books you don't enjoy.
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel starts in 1935, with a group of five cousins, visiting the house of their Aunt Helena and Uncle Richard, for a holiday by the sea. There is the beautiful Calypso, siblings Walter and Polly, the brooding Oliver and young, unwanted Sophy. Add to the mix the Rector’s twin sons, David and Paul and their guests, Max and Monika, married refugees, and you have the main cast of the novel.

Although this begins before the war, most of the book takes place during the war and revolves around these
Iza Brekilien
Reviewed for Books and livres

This week-end, I watched the mini-series The camomile lawn with, among others, Toby Stephens (whom I have a soft spot for), Tara Fitzgerald, Jennifer Ehle (platinum blonde, I didn't recognize her at first !). Time period, very good cast, I enjoyed watching it but wasn't crazy about it. However, I researched the book it was inspired from and found out that it's a modern classic in Great Britain, written by a Lady who was in her old age, so I managed to get the book fo
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
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

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

Mirren Jones
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it

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
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-to-screen
I heard an abridgement of this on BBC Radio 4 and really enjoyed it, so I asked my library to find me a copy.

This is a really entertaining story of an extended family during WW II. (It has been made into a TV series series in Britain and I can totally see Toby Jones as Oliver!) At times it is hard to remember who was related to who. But I just ate it up. There's a Jewish refugee who sleeps with practically any woman (and his wife is okay with that). There are WW I veterans who were supporting H
I fell in love with this novel already on the first page where Helena, annoyed and determined irons her newspaper to restore it to its proper form and order after it has been red by her husband…

It is just days before the outbreak of the II World War. Six cousins arrive at the house on a Cornish cliff to enjoy their last summer holiday before the war. Beautiful Calypso, the twins, Oliver, Polly and Walter, are all young and innocent, in their late teens or early twenties, with their whole lives a
Primrose Jess
I am really struggling with how to rate this. Let me explain.

This is the first book I have read where the thought occurred to me that it ought to come with a trigger warning. I'm not really the type that assigns trigger warnings to my books. Could be due to genre selection, it doesn't occur to me, or generally I don't feel knowledgeable enough to assign a warning for someone else, subjectively. However. There are some themes in this book that took me by surprise and I would hate for someone who
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Maguire
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-reading
I devoured this book about 25 years ago with great enjoyment - and so approached the re-read expecting disappointment. However, Wesley's crisp prose, her dry acerbity underpinned with wit and kindness, as she sets out the complicated and interwoven loves of her (post-)war characters won me over anew. I suspect that's because they fall into three distinct generations (young - middle - old) and, thanks to the time-span, we see most of them at two points in their lives. First time round, I read it ...more
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
Feb 01, 2008 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 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It felt like basking in the late afternoon sun.
Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans)
More of a 3.5* but I'm feeling generous because I'm a sucker for a narrative that has a recurring feature (like a camomile lawn) that ties the story together. ...more
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Mary Wesley, CBE was an English novelist. She reportedly worked in MI5 during World War II. 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 Haphazard House (1983), before publishing adult

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