23 July, 2016

The amazing Mrs Livesey by Freda Marnie Nicholls

I will start with a warning: this review is full of hyperbole as there is no other way to describe the life and crimes of this notorious British-Australian con artist. Mrs Livesey deserves the title “amazing”, but it is not meant as a compliment: it could well be substituted by “gobsmacking”.

This is an incredibly complicated story told at a fast clip and in a deceptively simple and light style. Mrs Livesey’s sociopathic record is so overwhelming that if it was told in too serious a tone, it would be a depressing and ultimately unreadable book.

Hats off to Ms Nicholls and all who helped her with the mountain of research that writing this book must have taken. Mrs Livesey changed aliases so many times that she completely baffled the authorities of the day. Unravelling all that and putting it into a progressive story must have been a nightmare, and yet the author manages to untie all the knots and present us with a story that flows beautifully.

The chapters have very helpfully been named after whatever alias Mrs Livesey was using at a particular time: to think that this long list constitutes only the ones that were documented, and therefore researchable, is unbelievable.

I got a bit of a shock when I reached the photo section and realised that perhaps this is the main reason why she was given the title “amazing”: that someone so lacking in the looks department could reel in so many wealthy men must have taken superhuman skill and cunning. Read it and be amazed.

Title: The amazing Mrs Livesey
Author: Freda Marnie Nicholls

Reviewed by Monica F, Waitakere Central Library, Henderson.

Monica F is happiest in gumboots and apron, attending to her animals, harvesting her crops and making stuff. Like all truly wholesome people, she has a dark side, and enjoys nothing better than well written true crime and forensic medicine.

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