Wild Mary by Patrick Marnham - review by Jessica Mann

Jessica Mann

Arsenic Without the Old Lace

Wild Mary


Chatto & Windus 304pp £18.99

Given a choice, would it be preferable to achieve success as a novelist at an early age and spend the rest of a career trying to live up to that early triumph, or wait till old age, like Barbara Pym or Mary Wesley herself? It must have been fun for Wesley, despised by resentful relations and rejected by publishers, suddenly at the age of seventy to leap out of obscurity to fame and fortune. As one of her contemporaries said, 'It shows we needn't give up hope yet.'

Wesley was a pseudonym. She was born Mary Mynors in 1912 to a mother who did not even pretend to want or love her. After a haphazard education Mary 'came out'. Her wild youth was full of parties, sex and shopping, until she made a conventional marriage to the very

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