BOOK REVIEW / High spirits again: An imaginative experience - Mary Wesley: Bantam, pounds 14.99
Sunday 06 February 1994
Her ninth book, An Imaginative Experience (the title, we are told, is taken from a remark about love made by A N Wilson - stranger things are to follow) begins with a promising scene on a train from the West Country, involving an unpleasant bird-watcher, a spirited heroine, a man called Sylvester and a stranded sheep. It proceeds fairly briskly, after a late arrival at Paddington, to reveal a little more about those involved, sketch in some new characters, tie up a few loose ends and get the heroine and Sylvester together, on the brink of love, for eight chapters (out of 33) before the final capitulation.
Wesley is even more irrepressible than usual here, giving us the benefit of her views on newspapers, racism, dogs and gardens, and pausing only for alcohol (her people commonly imbibe a variety of strong drinks at all hours yet get drunk surprisingly quickly) or meals ('a most excellent Stilton which he ate with Bath Oliver biscuits'). Her snobbery about such things as carpets, garden ornaments and expensive scent goes with a sharp eye for appearances. She demonstrates the surprising vulgarity of the enfant terrible.
Sometimes this is part of the naughtiness which Wesley likes to foster; as when the heroine's mother tells her life story to the bird-watcher: 'I married an architect, she began. He impregnated me with his sperm. You are shocked by the word sperm? Some men are.' Or when Sylvester describes his American hosts as 'giving the impression of being contentedly marinated in sexual juices'. Elsewhere, it is part of a general unsteadiness of tone; the result, perhaps, of having her plot unfold by means of clipped dialogue.
The spirited heroine, exhausted and in despair, seeks out the comfort of religion. A kindly old priest offers help which she rejects, remarking in passing on the altar: 'How lovely, how surprising. Most Catholic churches in England are hideous.' If this novel, like others of Wesley's, is televised, it will be interesting to see how that scene plays.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
25 years of Disney: How Darth Vader, Iron Man, Elsa and Pixar's geniuses helped the company conquer the world (again)
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account