24 May 2010

A Dubious Legacy

By Mary Wesley
Published by Black Swan
Originally published in Great Britain by Bantam Press, 1992

The synopsis on the back of this novel is what intrigued me:

"Henry brought his new bride, Margaret, to Cotteshaw in 1944. On the threshold she gave him a black eye and went straight to bed where she remained, apart from the occasional malevolent outburst, for the rest of her life."

With a wife in bed, what does Henry do for entertainment? He invites friends for dinner, sleeps around, hangs out with the gay couple down the road, brings his dogs everywhere, never gets over his first love. It all sounds like a bit of a comedy, yet it's not.

Two of the books main characters - Antonia and Barbara - are introduced early on and Wesley makes it easy for the reader to get caught up in their lives as they evolve from the greenest of girls to married middle-aged women, their lives constantly intersecting with Henry's and Margaret's.

I like Wesley's style, particularly the fact that she doesn't dumb down any of her books - if you don't understand it, she's not explaining it to you. She uses a vocabulary now considered old-fashioned or too cumbersome, but these words are what give her characters their depth and what sets Wesley apart from many other writers.

Mary Wesley once commented that her "chief claim to fame is arrested development, getting my first novel published at the age of seventy". From all accounts, Wesley led a fascinating life, which left her with lots to draw on for writing her novels (see this Wikipedia article for more http://bit.ly/18w4bw ).

A Dubious Legacy is sophisticated, sexy, and funny. Another fine book from the Mary Wesley library.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review!