Weldon, Fay 1933–
Weldon is a British novelist, playwright, and scriptwriter who writes about the problems of contemporary women. Her humanist approach transcends radical feminism, exploring the frailties and insecurities which plague both sexes. (See also CLC, Vols. 6, 9, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-24, rev. ed.)
D. A. N. Jones
Fay Weldon has a dashing, unconventional way of writing a novel; but there is something familiar about Female Friends. "Female friends" is a favourite locution of Thackeray's. I took down Philip, to check, and found much else in common…. Both authors are fond of the present tense, of chatting to the reader, of offering little homilies. Thackeray also sometimes puts his dialogue in the form of a dramatic script, just as Fay Weldon does. Their subject-matter is similar, too: the sufferings of women, particularly at the hands of other women, their mothers and their female friends. This has been an enjoyable theme for certain male writers since Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women.
In Female Friends, the women who need to beware of each other are called Grace, Marjorie and Chloe (the narrator). Girls of very different backgrounds with very different—and most interesting—mothers, they come together in a country village during the 1940 evacuation. The narrative hops back and forth in time, as the three girls, grow up, meet disagreeable men, and become mothers in unusual ways….
Chloe's vision of the males in this book is somewhat blurred. Although she sharply observes the bad things they say or do to women, she becomes implausible when she tries to guess about their motives, to report their political conversation, to describe their activities in their pubs and businesses. Males are frequently seen as a breed of large, hard-to-handle but covetable pets….
[It is said that] "female friends are not to be trusted". Chloe is inclined to agree:
Fine citizens, we make, fine sisters! Our loyalties are to men, not to each other. We are divided amongst ourselves. We have to be, for survival's sake.
The main idea—an exhortation to women to pull together—is put over very well, even if one feels that there is more female unity around than Chloe supposes.
D.A.N. Jones, "Warnings for Women," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), February 28, 1975, p. 213.
The majority of novel-readers, one is told, are women; it would be interesting to know what proportion, and what kind of women, prefer fantasy—daydreams of an impossibly different life—to stories which reflect everywoman's lot. Fay Weldon's Remember Me is in the second category. Not only does the reader learn what style and colour are the clothes worn by the [characters],… but where they bought them…. Food, furniture and household linens are given the same attention. Fay Weldon is a successful television playwright, which may account for her eye for settings and for setpieces: breakfast, a dinner party, moments in the day crosscut between three households….
Role-playing is emphasized by a persistent Happy Families technique: "Up gets Margot, the doctor's wife…." Proper names are reiterated as in a game….
Reading Remember Me is rather like gossiping about friends of friends. The characters are real, in that one knows the most intimate things about them; and yet they are schematic, reduced, as are people known only through an informant—or through the television screen. Only Madeleine's teenage daughter—fat, graceless, addicted to Sugar Puffs—seems properly solid; but in the end she too bursts into a cacophony of self-definitions: "I am Hilary, daughter of a dead mother, child of a lost father…."
Those who are not alienated by these inner incantations may be so by the banality of some of the authorial comments…. Some insights, less global, are on that account more interesting: many married men, for example, must secretly feel like the doctor, about money, that his wife "did...
(The entire section is 1,887 words.)