Erstwhile Amis Amour Gully Wells Chronicles Sexual Revolution

MS. WELLS’S MEMOIR chronicles the years when the sexual revolution made London swing, simultaneously documenting its effects on the two generations that straddled it—Ms. Wells’s on one end and her mother Dee’s on the other. Since Ms. Wells was already at Oxford when the fun began, the loosening of social restrictions merely meant that her youthful folly could be indulged without serious consequences. She wore thigh-high boots under her academic gown, was photographed topless in the school paper, and dropped acid on the lawn of Exeter College.

The older generation’s newfound freedom had more harmful reverberations. Ms. Wells’s half-brother, Nick Ayer, twelve years her junior, was just a child when Dee and Freddie began having serious extramarital affairs. Their home was literally broken. Dee lived with fashion designer Hylan Booker on the third floor Tuesday through Friday, while Freddie was at Oxford teaching. While there, he slept with Vanessa Lawson, then wife of Spectator editor turned member of Parliament Nigel Lawson (the father of chef Nigella Lawson). On weekends, Freddie lived on the first floor of the family house.

Ms. Wells hand-picked lessons from her mother’s example. “My main advice to young women is: do what you love and don’t forget to have a baby,” she said. (Ms. Wells had two.) “She taught me that life is fun and part of the fun is being surrounded by very funny, clever people and going to bed with clever, funny men,” Ms. Wells said.

Watching her mother relate to so many different men—all of whom, it must be said, seem to have adored Ms. Wells and actively enriched her life—left her with the impression that men exist to make her happy, if she were nicer to them than her ball-busting mother had been.

“If you think men are great and treat them well, they’re going to give you an interesting and loving and good time,” she said. “I’ve had nothing but good times with men, and I hope I will continue to do so as friends and lovers.”

For the memoirist, this romantic philosophy has yielded an embarrassment of riches. Ms. Wanger and Mr. Foges read early drafts and had the same reaction to the inclusion of one lover in particular: “Oh, please.”

“Superfluous,” Ms. Wells said, “and he was in every sense of the word, in my life and in my book. So we got rid of him.”



Erstwhile Amis Amour Gully Wells Chronicles Sexual Revolution