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  • Published: 2 April 2007
  • ISBN: 9780099498179
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99

Wild Mary: The Life Of Mary Wesley

The extraordinary life of Mary Wesley, whose first novel was published when she was 70 years old. She worked for British Intelligence during the war, and her 70s and 80s packed in the writing and publication of 10 amazingly sexy novels. Her books -exciting, innovative and bestselling - include THE CAMMOMILE LAWN, which was also made into a TV series.

Mary Wesley published her first novel when she was 70 - and went on to write 9 more bestsellersbefore her death in 2002 at the age of 89.Wesley was a pen-name, derived from the family name of Wellesley. She was born Mary Farmar, descended from the Duke of Wellington, and grew up a rebel who believed that she was her mother's least-favourite child. Like many girls of her background, she married for escape; but her first marriage(to Lord Swinfen) was conventional. Her second husband, Eric Siepmann, a writer who never managed to make any money at all, was feckless and bohemian. In between Swinfen and Siepmann, she had a love affair with Czech war-hero, Heinz Ziegler - and possibly with his brother at the same time; and in her later years enjoyed a torrid relationship with Robert Bolt.At the outbreak of the Second World War she was, as she put it, 'roped into intelligence', where she worked on breaking codes. Her experiences in MI 5 and her many wartime love affairs, which form the core of this biography, also formed the cores of her novels. She wrote about the atmosphere of the home front, and how war dislocates families, and how a sense of the imminence of death loosens the inhibitions - her novels are sexy and witty. She also drew on her love and knowledge of Cornwall.

  • Published: 2 April 2007
  • ISBN: 9780099498179
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Patrick Marnham

Patrick Marnham was born in Jerusalem, educated at Oxford and is a member of the English Bar. He is the author of several books, including the bestselling Wild Mary, has been translated into seven languages and has won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Prize, the Marsh Biography Award, and been nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe Award. He has been literary editor of The Spectator, was the first Paris correspondent of the Independent, and has worked as a BBC scriptwriter and broadcaster and as a special correspondent and war reporter.

Also by Patrick Marnham

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Praise for Wild Mary: The Life Of Mary Wesley

Much of the fascination of Marnham's well-researched and admirably impartial book is that it reveals just how autobiographical Wesley's fiction was

Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

[A] fast-paced riveting biography

Valerie Grove, The Times

A striking portrait not only of an amazing, if strange, woman but of an entire social class

Rachel Cooke, Evening Standard

Unpicks the complicated web of deceits and half-truths that surrounded much of her life with wit, patience and skill, providing just the sort of compelling read that Wesley did in her novel


This biography is pure pleasure, a riveting, hilarious tragicomedy of manners...Marnham has disentangled truth from rumour, clarified the many connections between Wild Mary's rackety life and Mary Wesley's fiction, and produced a generous, unsentimental and intelligent portrait of a woman's life and times


Thorough and attractive biography


Everyone will want to read her story, and I hope they do

Carole Angier, Sunday Telegraph

Wonderfully readable... a treat of a book: gossipy and funny, but also acutely aware of the currents that pushed this extraordinary woman into producing a body of wise and moving work at an age when most people are getting ready for the grave

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

Excellent...Marnham has also succeeded in melding this complex narrative with a great deal of historical detail...Wesley was also deeply loved, and Marnham has done a very capable job of explaining why that should be so

Rebecca Seal, Obsever

Wild Mary is as good a literary biography as you are likely to read, its tales told with exceptional verve and wit

Roger Lewis, Express on Sunday

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