“Wild Mary” by Patrick Marnham

Wild Mary by Patrick Marnham is the biography of Mary Wesley, whose career as an author took off after she’d passed her 70th birthday. In a remarkably productive fourteen years, she published ten novels, most of which focused on the time of her youth during World War 2, often with scandalous, strong willed female heroines, sexual affairs, dysfunctional families and a fight for independence for women, all done with a wicked sense of humour but frank and honest. This authorised biography of Mary, looks back at her life before her fame, and shows how her experiences influenced her work.

I adored Mary Wesley’s books when I read them back in the 90s, and even back then I rarely re-read books, but there are a few of her paperbacks that are well thumbed up on my shelves as I read them again and again. Having said that, it’s probably fifteen years since I last read one, and although I rarely read biographies, I could resist buying this one when I first saw it a couple of years ago.

What a fascinating life she led! I loved reading this biography, from her aristocratic roots, though to years of poverty, via two marriages, the war years, love affairs, family estrangements and finally her eventual success as an author. Loved how there were direct links between events from her own, her family and her friends lives with scenes and themes in her novels, and I now want to re-read her books again, to remind myself of some of my favourite reads from years ago.

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