Jonathan Raban (review date 8 May 1970)
SOURCE: “Bristle & Twist,” in New Statesman, May 8, 1970, p. 667.
[In the following review, Raban discusses the female characters in Fenella Phizackerley.]
Margaret Forster has acquired a considerable reputation for constructing memorable, flat (purely in a literary sense) female characters. Fenella Phizackerley will enhance it. Where Georgy Girl was large and lovable, Fenella is sylphlike and frigidly nasty; a child so spoiled, selfish, indifferent and blank that her author deserves to be reported to the NSPCC. The novel hardly ever rises above the level of gossip, as it chronicles Fenella's icy rise from the privet-hedged respectability of lower-middle-class Durham, through gay Hampstead and evenings at the Academy cinemas, to the grand D'Arcy mansion and photos of herself in Queen and Country Life. Her progress is smoothed by Miss Forster, who steps in to dispatch Fenella's husbands and lovers with the efficiency of a gardener snipping off dead twigs. Her triumph is the surprise death of the Hon. Jonathan D'Arcy, cut off in his prime with VD, so that Fenella can get her comeuppance—a long widowhood back in Durham by way of Monte Carlo.