Zoë (Ann) Fairbairns Nicholas Shrimpton - Essay

Nicholas Shrimpton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Benefits] begins as a brisk tract on the campaigns for abortion on demand and the retentions of child benefits. It then suddenly transforms itself into a zany dystopia, set in the closing years of the 20th century. In part this is a satirical reversal of current arguments against legal abortion, since the woman of the future's right to choose is inhibited by compulsory birth control and she resorts to back-street doctors in order to become pregnant. But there is also an attempt to pursue a serious political hypothesis. A new government begins to pay women substantial salaries for rearing their own children. This seemingly desirable step leads immediately to the exclusion of women from the job-market, and ultimately to a policy of selective breeding. By the end we seem to be back with the old Welfare State, some of its warts and all. As a vision of the future the book suffers from the extreme narrowness of its focus. As an argument it is confused by its author's inability to resist distractions. Zoe Fairbairns writes excellent jokes. But she does need a tighter framework in which to set them. (p. 559)

Nicholas Shrimpton, "A Dash of Kim," in New Statesman, Vol. 98, No. 2534, October 12, 1979, pp. 559-60.