BOOK REVIEW: The story of Australia's greatest impostor

The Amazing Mrs Livesey by Freda Marnie Nicholls is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.
The Amazing Mrs Livesey by Freda Marnie Nicholls is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99. PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

THIS is the story of Australia's greatest impostor.

Ethel Livesey was not a great beauty according to the photographs included in this book, yet she was able to seduce a huge number of men in the UK and Australia, marrying many and swindling all.

She had four children over the many marriages, all of whom she left behind as she lived the life she felt was her due.

She had created a lifestyle affordable to only the wealthiest of people, but she had no money, just the means of getting it.

Her antics took her across the globe, from a respectable family in Manchester, England, to the French Riviera, Ireland, the US, New Zealand and finally Australia.

She used many false names, and always false backgrounds, in her efforts to impress.

The whole fraud came to light just hours before she was to be married in a huge, glittering social wedding in the Australia Hotel in Sydney. Her story was splashed across newspapers in Australia and Europe, and people she had wronged began to appear to recoup the debts she owed.

She appeared in court and was confronted with many of her victims, but showed no remorse, continuing to believe she was owed the things that she took, whether money, goods or even love.

The introduction to the book is written by Mrs Livesey's grand-daughter, the daughter of Frank, one of the children abandoned along Mrs Livesey's incredible life journey.

The story is amusing in places, but I was always aware that this woman was deceitful and totally without conscience.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was a true story; if it had been a work of fiction it would have been too unbelievable.

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