Born in Englefield Green, Surrey, Mary Wesley was educated at the London School of Economics and worked at Bletchley Park during the war. She was 70 when she published her first novel, Jumping the Queue (1983). Begin with this blackly comic account of a well-to-do widow's obsession with suicide. She postpones the act after meeting a fugitive who is also on the point of killing himself. After a revelatory survey of her past, she takes her life in the tragically absurd conclusion. The Camomile Lawn (1984) opens on the eve of the Second World War, which brings excitement and sexual liberation to the cousins whose lives the novel entertainingly follows through four decades. Hebe, the heroine of Harnessing Peacocks (1985), flees her home to escape demands for her to undergo an abortion. She brings up her son in unconventional circumstances, well maintained by her talents for cookery and lovemaking. A Sensible Life (1990) offers a further treatment of unorthodox morality. The opening finds its heroine, who is undergoing a painful adolescence, meeting three boys during a holiday at Dinard in Brittany. Over many years, she maintains separate relationships with each of them before deciding she must choose one to remain with. Laura Thornby in Second Fiddle (1988) has lost the capacity for lasting relationships through her self-protective emotional detachment. Her secret past and her need for independence are at issue when she moves in with her young lover and his mother.
Marika Cobbold, Jane Gardam, Muriel Spark. See ROMANCE DH