Zoë (Ann) Fairbairns

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Zoë (Ann) Fairbairns 1948–

English novelist.

Fairbairns is a feminist writer whose novels examine from both a historical and a contemporary perspective the inequalities and difficulties women have faced. She has been commended for creating strong characters, male and female, who reflect women's struggles, and for avoiding being didactic or simplistic.

Benefits (1976) is a futuristic story set in the closing years of the twentieth century, when women are subject to compulsory birth control. As an Orwellian government attempts to institutionalize motherhood, selective breeding begins and women's role in society is vastly reduced. Benefits has been praised as a meaningful political fable, and Fairbairns is recognized for her skill in balancing her characters.

Stand We at Last (1983) has been called Fairbairns's most accomplished novel. This work follows five generations of English women through their struggles to gain personal and political freedom. Elizabeth Grossman asserted that Fairbairns tried to cover too many topics and failed to explore the passing time periods in depth, but other critics applauded Fairbairns's historical research and declared that Stand We at Last was a convincing portrait of women's issues over the last hundred years.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 103.)