The Amazing Mrs Livesey
The Remarkable Story of Australia's Greatest ImposterFreda Marnie Nicholls
1 December 2016
Published by Allen & Unwin
An attractive young woman from a respectable middle-class family in Manchester, Ethel Livesey had over forty aliases, eight official marriages, four children and five divorces at a time when divorce was totally scandalous. Her story stretches from industrial England to the French Riviera, from Ireland to New York, Shanghai, New Zealand, the Isle of Man and across Australia. Ethel claimed she was a cotton heiress, wartime nurse, casino hostess, stowaway, artist, opera singer, gambler, spy, close friend of the King, air raid warden, charity queen and even wife of Australian test cricketer Jack Fingleton. But what was fact and what was fiction?
When her career imploded (with the abandonment of her glittering society marriage in post-war Sydney just two hours before the guests were due to arrive), the story of the Amazing Mrs Livesey was blazoned across newspapers around the world. For nearly a year, the public was kept enthralled by reports of her adventures and scams. But even then the whole truth never emerged – until now.
With a prologue by Ethel Livesey’s granddaughter, Freda Nicholls’ account of Ethel’s life is based on tapes and transcripts recorded by her son two years before his death, as well as interviews with descendants of those who knew her, numerous court, police, divorce and immigration records around the world, together with a multitude of contemporary newspaper articles.