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Wild Mary: The Life Of Mary Wesley

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  285 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Mary Wesley published her first novel at seventy and went on to write a further nine bestsellers, including the legendary The Camomile Lawn, in a style best described as arsenic without the old lace. Many of her stories were inspired by her experiences during the Blitz, and by her marriages: the first to an aristocrat, a brief and conventional affair, and the second to a p ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 3rd 2007 by Vintage (first published November 23rd 2004)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  285 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an authorised & well researched biography of a quite unusual woman born in 1912, who despite an apparently privileged upbringing in Southern England to a gentrified but highly dysfunctional family, divorced her 1st aristocratic husband during World War 2. She then went onto marry "the wickedst man in the world" following multiple liaisons, & a scandalous divorce well publicised in the media, to whom she stayed loyal until his death in 1970 despite significant poverty. Subsequently, she b ...more
Ruth Morgan
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A bit of a rambling read but a fascinating portrait of a wild life buffeted about by wild times. A lot of people liked Mary. She comes across as warm, generous and brave and she endured a lot. She was hurt by those closest to her but it's impossible her recklessness and mistakes didn't hurt others. She was wise to the mistakes she'd made which as she grew older, she found more and more painful. She replayed themes from her life and the people she'd known, in her stories. She wasn't the only wild ...more
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
I wanted to award more stars for the subject, and less stars for the awful writing of the biography.

Mary Wesley was a complex and troubled character. Her story is a rollicking one: a cast of lovers, two marriages, riches and poverty, and a late successful career as a writer.

However I am rather aghast at the dreadful writing of her biographer. My objections are two-fold: firstly his treatment of the subject and the major themes in her life. An incredible over emphasis on her sex life during the
Ruth Pellegrini
Mar 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love Mary Wesley - have done since I read them all when they first came out in my late teens/early twenties. Have recently re-read them all and enjoyed them even more! This is almost more fun than the actual books!
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hmm. Obviously I need to add "biography" to my shelves. And this is quite the bio, demonstrating that neither trauma nor complicated sexual affairs were invented by the current generation. The friend who lent me this one also gave/lent me a number of Wesley's novels, and they definitely make sense in the context of her life.

She published her first novel at 70. Yep, seventy years old. She lived into her early 90's, and was apparently quite popular during the 1980's when most of her novels came ou
Kim Stallwood
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
An interesting biography about the novelist Mary Wesley. My affection for her novel, The Camomile Lawn, prompted me to read it. I came to this novel through its telly adaptation that's excellent. The Camomile Lawn is a great story with fascinating characters. I find it interesting to read about writers and particularly with Mary Wesley to learn how her life influenced her creativity. She came to be a very successful author late in her life. Wild Mary, which was authorised by Mary Wesley, chronic ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016, biography
I devoured Mary Wesley's novels during the 80s and 90s, reading and re-reading several times. When this came out in hardback I fully intended to get the PB ASAP, but for reasons unfathomable did not.

This was everything I could hope for in a biography - lucid, an excellent balance of information on life and how it affected art and written with a skill that imbues the book with the compulsion of a thriller. And such a life, such a fascinating, vivid character, whose life was in part enviable, but
Tracey  Wilde
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An amazing woman with an amazing life. Having read a lot of her books I can see from this biography that a lot of things were from her own life. Recommended.
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, favourites
Loved all of Mary Wesley's books and was very interested to read her interesting woman ...more
Leenda dela Luna
May 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Hated it. Too many British (??) names, titles & places to follow. I gave up 1/2 way through.
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this book. It will be one of my all time favorites. Brilliant biography. What an astonishing woman. I have now ordered A Dubious Legacy and The Camomile Lawn to read.
Michelle Long
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Fabulous book. Wildly entertaining and a very fun read. Couldn't put it down. ...more
Jillian Mary
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
What a life! This is a very conventional biography of the very unconventional life of an upper class woman born in 1912. I found it rather pedestrian and dull, full of facts, attentive to chronology and evidence. It is very competently written but I just feel Mary Wesley deserves something more. She was a complex individual from a family torn apart by rivalries, jealousies, hatred. I would have really liked a little more insight into this legacy. It surely had a massive impact on her personal ps ...more
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
What a life! This is a very conventional biography of a very unconventional upper class woman. It relies on facts, chronology, detail. I found it pedestrian and a little dull and I think Mary Wesley deserves more. She came from a high society family torn apart by rivalries and jealousies. This book barely scrapes the surface of how that legacy defined Mary and her recreation of bitter divisions between her own children. It lacks analysis or insight. Too eager to emphasize research, it ends up su ...more
Ann-Maree Ozanne
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a life to have had, so much material to go into her book. There were times when the factual references from the author were a bit much, however Mary's story was so action packed it kept the book moving along. Now I can't wait to read The Camomile Lawn! ...more
A. Yeoman
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love Mary Wesley's novels and loved re-reading about her life. Anyone who can sell their first novel when a pensioner and then go on to become wealthy from sales of her novels, is someone to praise. ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Quite a life. I just read Rachel's review which commented on the writing style of the biographer. It was deadly boring often, but the subject was so fascinating, I couldn't stop. ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed all of Mary Wesley’s books and her biography is just as entertaining. Great attention to detail and an insight into an honest, flawed and fascinating person.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating story - fast paced and brutally honest - no sugar coating of consequences of dysfunctional family and a lot more beyond.

Andrew Rock
May 30, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting book about Mary's life but I found it dragged a bit in the middle may be due to the lack of information that was available ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Though I don't remember the contents, I do remember reading Mary Wesley's novels when they were first published on the recommendation of my mother. She, only 12 years younger than Mary, was entertained by the author's bohemian lifestyle and entranced by the idea of someone making a new and successful life in her seventies. There is hope for us all...

So I was intrigued to read this biography, and fascinated by Mary's eventful life. More or less abandoned by her upper-crust family who went to live
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked Mary Wesley's books when I read them a long time ago and found it very inspiring that she didn't get published until she was 70 and then got on and wrote more and more books. This biography is very well named, she certainly did live a wild life. It was interesting to read about the way she chose to live, particularly during World War II, can't help thinking though that she did lead a very privileged life and somehow, even though she had children and, after she'd married Eric, she lived i ...more
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
I found this hard going at times and it took me longer than I expected to finish it. I found the writing hard to follow and frequently found myself having to go back and forth to find my bearings or to remind myself of a person. Obviously Mary Wesley lived in a different time and she was the product of a class system that I can't relate to but despite my best efforts I didnt particularly find her likeable because she frequently came across as extremely selfish and sometimes rather spoilt.

Apr 26, 2012 rated it liked it
While I won't say this is the most stunningly written biography I've ever read, Wesley's life was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages, even if not compulsively. Since I'm looking at it from a research POV, I appreciated the fact that most of the book involved her life before she became a writer -- there's plenty of post-publication documentation on the record. Still, he did a very thorough job and her voice comes through the narrative, which is a good thing.

Now I'm stoked to get back
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it
I found this biography a little difficult to read. It jumped all over the place in terms of time, and I would have found a time-line reference really helpful. I persevered as i LOVE Mary Wesley so much, and did find her life fascinating.

I rented the BBC version of the Camomile Lawn as Calypso is supposed to be the character which most represents her. I would recommend this to Mary Wesley enthusiasts, or folks interested in learing about life in Britain during the 2nd world war.
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
Have read only first half. It was a mildly interesting read but suspect this genre is not for me however I have really enjoyed her novels and it seems she has got many of her characters and situations from her own life.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it liked it
My aunt lent me this book. I hadn't heard of Mary Wesley before but the book, and the lady, sounded very interesting. Mary did have a very interesting life. I especially enjoyed the parts during WWII. However I don't like the style of the author's writing. Very choppy and seems unedited. ...more
Oct 13, 2012 rated it liked it
What an interesting life Mary Wesley led, so far removed from my own experience it was hard to connect with it. I'm afraid Marnham didn't make an easy read of it, providing a lot of detail and history of minor characters, not necessarily adding anything useful to my understanding of Wesley. ...more
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Writing style a little stilted to my mind and took a little while to get going, but other than that a very good read - fascinating biog. of a very interesting woman, and an excellent insight into the changes in society over the course of the twentieth century.
Apr 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
Her life must have been absolutely remarkable! Unfortunately his book isn't, the author tries to run you through every episode of her adventurous life in haste, with too many details and complete lack of emotional connection. Shame, looking for a better written version of her life.. ...more
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