Sunday, July 15, 2012

"A Sensible Life," by Mary Wesley

I was slightly familiar with the English author Mary Wesley’s name and reputation, but don’t remember actually reading any of her novels before. At the local library sale that I have written about several times, I recently picked up Wesley’s 1990 novel, “A Sensible Life” (Penguin). It looked like one of the kinds of novels I like: English, about a group of young people and their families who meet on vacation in France, just before World War II, and their intertwined lives over the following 35 years. Country houses, hotels, parties, dinners, romances, family dramas, friendships, jealousy, loyalty, and more…wonderful! I did, however, feel a bit uneasy about the first part of the novel, because of the sadness of the main character, Flora, a 10-year-old whose parents in their utter self-absorption neglect her unforgivably. But Flora is a strong, observant girl, and I wanted to know what would happen in her life. Slowly the story caught me up, and my fascination with how people’s lives work out over time, and with the relationships among those characters, kept me interested to the end. A few unexpected twists and turns along the way also kept me engaged.

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