“A hundred years hence, if people can still read, Weldon’s books will likely have the unblunted edge of Jane Austen, an unsentimental Baedeker guide to sexual manners in an ill-mannered age. Fay Weldon breaks taboos like tape at a marathon, and she hasn’t stopped running yet.”Los Angeles Times
Atlantic Monthly Press
978-0-87113-682-4 • $12.00 • Paperback • June 1997
Fay Weldon is an irresistible blend of compassionate wisdom and deliciously nasty wit, and her consummate twenty-first novel is a tour de force. From its hilarious opening (“I’ve never seen a dead body. . . . Can I come too?”) to its satisfying final conflagration, it is a taut, scathing revelation of the nature of marital intimacy. Released from the safety of the conjugal hearth into the howling gales of widowhood, it’s hard to tell if Alexandra is losing her sanity or just her friends.
When Alexandra returns from her stint on the London stage as Ibsen’s sweet and timid Nora to find her husband mysteriously dead of a heart attack and her female friends ominously invested in smoothing out all the complications of the tragedy, she begins to be suspicious. At first attributes this to grief, and then to paranoiaperhaps she’s simply going crazy?but the smug managerial tactics of solid Abbie, the fussy, invasive ministrations of the again but still glamorous Vilna, and the vacant, mournful stalking of plain, pathetic Jenny Linden weave together into a creepy conspiratorial veil between Alexandra and the truth of her own supposedly picture-perfect marriage. She finds herself starting to crack, crank-calling her friends’ psychiatrist, attacking people with kitchen chairs and breaking into their houses, searching furiously for evidence to confirm her husband’s rampant adultery and her own worst fears.