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So Amused

Sarah Rigby: Fay Weldon

11 July 2002
Auto da Fay 
by Fay Weldon.
Flamingo, 366 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 9780007109920
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... There is an unusual emphasis on ghosts in Fay Weldon’s autobiography. Early on, angels appear to her mother in the local park; a woman in white sits on the six-year-old Weldon’s bed; and ghosts unaccountably darken the rooms at her New Zealand high school (a sort of advance haunting, she now thinks, by the woman who was to be killed nearby in the murder dramatised in the film Heavenly Creatures ...


Harriet Guest

10 December 1987
The Rules of Life 
by Fay Weldon.
Century Hutchinson, 79 pp., £7.95, September 1987, 0 09 168680 6
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The Hearts and Lives of Men 
by Fay Weldon.
Heinemann, 328 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 434 85192 2
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... a white blouse, or white stockings, or a white shirt, quite separately. The ghostly narrator of Fay Weldon’s novella The Rules of Life pleads for painstaking attention to the laundry. She ventriloquises the instructions on clothes labels, on detergent packages, and in the handbook that comes with the washing-machine, lacing her lessons with ...

Dead Cats and Fungi

Robert Taubman

20 March 1980
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 255 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 340 24565 4
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The Mirror of the Giant 
by Penelope Shuttle.
Marion Boyars, 165 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 0 7145 2679 7
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Another Part of the Wood 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 7156 1458 4
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Wild Oats 
by Jacob Epstein.
Alison Press/Secker, 267 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 436 14826 9
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In the Secret State 
by Robert McCrum.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 241 10322 3
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... Whatever the women in these Weldon and Shuttle novels achieve, it is not through effort or desperation so much as by passive submission. Women’s minds and bodies are the scene of all the action, but apparently no more than the scene; and though uninhibited freedom in this area is a sign of emancipation in modern women’s writing, I don’t know that the effect and the message in these two books will get a welcome in radical circles ...


Patricia Craig

3 December 1992
by Jenefer Shute.
Secker, 232 pp., £7.99, August 1992, 0 436 47278 3
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Daughters of the House 
by Michèle Roberts.
Virago, 172 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 1 85381 550 0
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... Jenefer Shute’s Life-Size comes garnished with a quote from Fay Weldon, in which enthusiasm has got the better of taste: ‘Terrific! I devoured it at a sitting.’ ‘Devour’ is not a word one would choose to apply to a novel about the suppression of appetites, however jocularly. This book is full of rage and disgust ...


John Sutherland

4 June 1981
Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... Bargate’s fiction is interestingly poised at the threshold of the last stage. The title story in Fay Weldon’s collection, Watching Me, Watching You, is about a haunting. A not very potent ghost occupies a 130-year-old house in an area of Bristol recently gentrified. He entered on the shoulders of a luckless Victorian housemaid, who later hanged ...
2 October 1980
... Geoffrey​ thought perhaps Tania should see a psychotherapist. She was having nightmares, the substance of which eluded her but the attendant feeling – tone (as she learned to call it) – was clear enough. Terror. That was in 1968, and their joint income was low. Geoffrey was studying sociology at the London School of Economics, when he wasn’t at the barricades or fomenting revolution, and Tania, who already had her degree, was working for a market research firm in a rather humble capacity ...

Making a Costume Drama out of a Crisis

Jenny Diski: ‘Downton Abbey’

21 June 2012
Downton Abbey: Series One and Two 
Universal DVD, £39.99, November 2011Show More
Upstairs Downstairs: Complete Series One and Two 
BBC DVD, £17.99, April 2012Show More
Park Lane 
by Frances Osborne.
Virago, 336 pp., £14.99, June 2012, 978 1 84408 479 1
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Habits of the House 
by Fay Weldon.
Head of Zeus, 320 pp., £14.99, July 2012, 978 1 908800 04 6
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... Lane? Original thought is not a requirement. And even if you shift the period back a few years, as Fay Weldon has done in Habits of the House (she does at least have a more practised writing and plotting hand than either Fellowes or Osborne), there is still the great tottering pile, inheritance and marriage problems, the chorus of wise and anxious ...


Patricia Craig

19 September 1985
But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... beneath the skin – an unsettling practice, and one altogether alien to the Starkadder spirit. Fay Weldon’s tone, in her new collection of stories, is as grimly chatty as ever: ‘Well now, friends, let’s have a little light relief. Let me tell you the story of what happened to Esther and Alan in the 24th year of their marriage.’ So opens ...


Anita Brookner

7 October 1982
The President’s Child 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 220 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 340 24564 6
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Silence among the Weapons 
by John Arden.
Methuen, 343 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 413 49670 8
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The Facilitators, or Mister Hole-in-the-Day 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 173 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7100 9214 8
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Pleasure City 
by Kamala Markandaya.
Chatto, 341 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 7011 2617 5
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Worldly Goods 
by Michael Korda.
Bodley Head, 347 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 370 30932 4
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Dutch Shea Jr 
by John Gregory Dunne.
Weidenfeld, 352 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 297 78164 2
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... and sustained. But it is not at this level that the gravity of the book is made manifest. Mrs Weldon has in the past been a devastating but partial protagonist in the familiar argument of man’s inhumanity to woman. Here she breaks free of her own propaganda, and in one of the most lyrical passages written by a woman for many years, she acknowledges the ...
24 April 1997
... allowed to preen himself at leisure. Next to him, the two British panellists – Lord Archer and Fay Weldon – seemed dwarfishly over-anxious to make points: Archer, of course, trumpeting the Tory Party line, and Weldon semi-weeping for Old Labour. ‘Where does an old radical like you go?’ Paxman asked ...

Female Heads

John Bayley

27 October 1988
Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction 
by Tess Cosslett.
Harvester, 211 pp., £29.95, July 1988, 0 7108 1015 6
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Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century 
by John Mullan.
Oxford, 261 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 19 812865 7
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The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney. Vol. I: 1768-1773 
edited by Lars Troide.
Oxford, 353 pp., £45, June 1988, 9780198125815
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... to the female presence in the centre of the book, though both would have balked at saying, as Fay Weldon has done, that being women made them unable to understand or feel sympathy with a man. The honesty of that remark shows just how far, in the post-Drabble-Byatt novel, the process has gone. Elizabeth Bowen or Elizabeth Taylor ignored, in their ...

Siding with Rushdie

Christopher Hitchens

26 October 1989
The Rushdie File 
edited by Lisa Appignanesi and Sara Maitland.
Fourth Estate/ICA, 268 pp., £5.95, July 1989, 0 947795 84 7
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CounterBlasts No 4: Sacred Cows 
by Fay Weldon.
Chatto, 43 pp., £2.99, July 1989, 0 7011 3556 5
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Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation 
by Timothy Brennan.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £29.50, September 1989, 0 333 49020 7
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... alone an auto da fe. It was autos da fe, if you recall, that were the problem in the first place. Fay Weldon has no urgent quarrel with the ‘free speech first’ position. The difficulty with her ‘CounterBlast’ is that it, too, imports a lot of extraneous matter into the argument, does so before it has made up its mind, and thus fails to arrive at ...

Ramadan Nights

Robert Irwin: How the Koran Works

7 August 2003
The Koran 
translated by N.J. Dawood.
Penguin, 464 pp., £7.99, January 2003, 0 14 044920 5
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... version of the Koran expecting to be shocked by its exotic barbarism. There have been many, like Fay Weldon at the time of the Rushdie affair, who have read an English translation and are just as shocked as they expected to be. Because the Koran is not a free-standing text, a great deal of glossing and contextual knowledge is required, and this is as ...

Bad News

Iain Sinclair

6 December 1990
by John Farrand.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 239 pp., $40, June 1990, 1 55670 134 9
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Weather Watch 
by Dick File.
Fourth Estate, 299 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 1 872180 12 4
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Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment 
edited by J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums.
Cambridge, 365 pp., £40, September 1990, 9780521403603
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Crop Circles: The Latest Evidence 
by Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews.
Bloomsbury, 80 pp., £5.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0843 7
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The Stumbling Block, Its Index 
by B. Catling.
Book Works, £22, October 1990, 9781870699051
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... that does well on late-night television and inspires agonised polemics in the Sunday supplements. Fay Godwin. Fay Weldon. All the Fays. There is concern at the Palace. Even the Cabinet war-council is cruising for some green relief, some planetary crisis to get them off the ...

Short is sharp

John Sutherland

3 February 1983
Firebird 2 
edited by T.J. Binding.
Penguin, 284 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 006337 4
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Bech is Back 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 195 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 0 233 97512 8
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The Pangs of Love 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 156 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 241 10942 6
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The Man Who Sold Prayers 
by Margaret Creal.
Dent, 198 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 9780460045926
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Happy as a Dead Cat 
by Jill Miller.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, January 1983, 9780704338982
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... shaving from his workshop floor is gratefully scooped up. Other heavyweights in the collection are Fay Weldon and Francis Stuart. Weldon’s piece is an ironic unhappily-ever-after study of contemporary marriage, given in her familiar a-man-was-born-he-lived-and-he-died manner. Stuart’s ‘The Water Garden’ is a ...

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