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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 authorised, and astonishing, biography of Mary Wesley.

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 penniless writer she adored.

A remarkable book about a remarkable woman, Patrick Marnham's brilliantly researched and wonderfully impartial book disentangles truth from rumour, highlighting the links between Wesley's real life and her fiction.

  • 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.

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Praise for Wild Mary: The Life Of Mary Wesley

An unexpurgated account of a rackety, free-spirited life that will enchant the romantics and shock the sentimentalists

Ian Finlayson, The Times

Thoroughly researched, moving and highly entertaining, this portrait of a life spanning almost the entire 20th century contains a tale that would intrigue those who never read a word of Wesley's bestselling novels, while aficionados can track a steady stream of fictional parallels. Wild Mary is a page-turner of a biography, which is precisely what its subject would have wanted

Joanna Briscoe, Guardian

[A] fast-paced riveting biography

Valerie Grove, The Times

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 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


A fast-paced, riveting biography

The Times

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

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

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

A striking portrait

Daily Mail

It's an extraordinary story. I've admired the novels of Mary Wesley since I first read them. I like the whole spirit, the zest, the frankness, they're very sexy....but I'd no idea that she'd had a life that I can only describe as raunchy... Patrick Marnham has written it very well. I'm an admirer of his work... Altogether, a very good read

Antonia Fraser

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