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The House in France review - Gully Wells

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The House in France | MUMMY'S THE WORD Well's memoir recounts in detail her mother's glittering social circle in swinging London

The House in France

Current Status:
In Season
Gully Wells

We gave it a B+

Those who follow smart-set Brit-lit chat know that roughly ? a billion women have claimed British novelist Martin Amis as a boyfriend over the years. Gully Wells, 60, a features editor at Condé Nast Traveler magazine, is one of them. But that, she swears, is not really what The House in France is about — at least, not only. This engrossingly appalling memoir is ostensibly about how much the Paris-born, London-bred, New York-based author loved her mother, the late American journalist Dee Wells, who made her career in England.

Calling herself a ”wild savage,” Mummy ? constructed a life defined by headstrong rebellion and seriously iffy mothering, all of which was cushioned by privilege. First and briefly, she married Gully’s American father, a rich ? diplomatic type whom she tired of in Burma; then she moved to London, established her name as a sassy TV commentator, and set her sights on famous Oxford philosopher A.J. ”Freddie” Ayer. Although she bagged him (and made life comfy for him in both London and the house she bought in the south of France with money from her divorce settlement), marriage didn’t stop the fellow from carrying on with ladies right and left.

Her mother’s glittering crowd (including Iris Murdoch and Bertrand Russell) was terribly nonchalant about such stuff, and the author swears that even as a little girl, she was too. When she grew up, she sampled her own beaux, which is where Amis comes in for his celebrity cameo: He was her ”first great love” at Oxford. Later, after she married a nice ?British chap who worked for the BBC, Gully and her husband moved to swinging Greenwich Village and then Brooklyn, where they ? established their own smart set, anchored by ?frequent houseguest Christopher Hitchens.

Honestly? Everyone’s kind of awful and ? self-absorbed. But even so, there’s something guiltlessly compelling about Gully’s own ? attitude of la-di-da. B+