Tom Marshall

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[Fat Woman] is an enjoyable and absorbing read, and … has as a central aim an exploration of the dignity and even complexity of the lives of quite ordinary or socially marginal people….

Both Ella Mae, the melancholy fat woman, and her thin and jocular husband Edward are vividly present in all their individual quirkiness and idiosyncrasy. (p. 120)

Fat Woman is a tour de force that could not be sustained at greater length. And though Ella Mae and Edward are utterly convincing as well as likeable, Rooke has (I feel) written around Ella Mae's relationship with her exceedingly bratty sons; he manages this evasive action skilfully, but something is felt to be lacking. Still, this is a minor flaw in a piece of writing that presents with considerable style and sensitivity a vulnerable and valuable human being trapped in the flesh and in a marginal rural existence. Fat Woman is a highly successful novel or novella of character; such plot as there is is best not revealed ahead of time to the reader. (pp. 120-21)

Tom Marshall, "Social Margins" (reprinted by permission of the author), in Canadian Literature, No. 89, Summer, 1981, pp. 120-21.∗

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