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Jumping The Queue


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Her celebrated first novel!

About the Author

Mary Wesley was born near Windsor in 1912. Her education took her to the London School of Economics and during the War she worked in the War Office. Although she initially fulfilled her parent's expectations in marrying an aristocrat she then scandalised them when she divorced him in 1945 and moved in with the great love of her life, Eric Siepmann. The couple married in 1952, once his wife had finally been persuaded to divorce him. She used to comment that her 'chief claim to fame is arrested development, getting my first novel [Jumping the Queue] published at the age of seventy'. She went on to write a further nine novels, three of which were adapted for television, including the best-selling The Camomile Lawn. Mary Wesley was awarded the CBE in the 1995 New Year's honour list and died in 2002.


Late-bloomer Wesley published this first novel in Britain at the age of 70a fact that explains the breadth of experience reflected here. As a practical decision, Matilda Poliport, middle-aged and recently widowed, is preparing at the story's outset to commit suicide before the trials of old age can beset her. But she is temporarily thwarted by an encounter with a highly publicized gentleman murderer on the runa matricide, in fact. Matilda whimsically decides to shelter the otherwise sympathetic killer for a few days and agrees to abet his escape to the Continent. Within their brief, strangers-on-a-train-like intimacy, Matilda talks frankly about her life, while the matricide remains strangely silent about his odious crime. However, what the reader learns about Matilda is far more than she admits to herself. Wesley leaves us wondering about the limits of human knowing and what anyone can ever finally determine about either the past or one's true motivations. Reality in this contemporary novel remains an open system. The rub is that Matilda, on the one hand, is remarkably self-aware but, on the other, not only self-deluding but also the victim of a reductive imagination, outright lies and withheld or fragmentary informationpitfalls, the novel suggests, that await the reader of this or any other narrative, be it fiction or so-called fact. The novel is delivered in a bright, sparkling style, full of witty asides on the fatuity of modern culture and mores, all the better to underscore its dark themes. (May)

"I loved it for its extraordinary combination of despair and wild black humour" -- Julia Blackburn
"Great verve and inventiveness" * Times Literary Supplement *
"A virtuoso performance of guileful plotting, deft characterisation and malicious wit" * The Times *
"Quriky, sexy and deeply fascinating" -- Sheila Hancock

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