Category Archives: Weldon Fay

Habits of the House by Fay Weldon

habits of the house, fay weldonDATE FINISHED: August 1st, 2013 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  During a stay in London’s Belgrave Square, the Hedleigh family suddenly find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy, due to an unfortunate investment gone awry, not to mention a variety of gambling debts courtesy of the Earl… The daughter of the house is an ardent feminist and has declared herself out of the marriage market, so the only thing for it is for the charming but ineffectual son of the family, Arthur, to pull himself together and marry money – quickly!  The Countess and her maid work both together and against each other to bring about a ‘happy’ union with a visiting heiress (with a scandal in her past); but will Arthur’s preference for laid-back living and his sister’s horror at his mildly amoral proclivities scupper the grand plan to save the family?

THOUGHTS:  A comedy of manners both above and below stairs, I thoroughly enjoyed this period romp. Read more of this post

Advertisements

The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn

DATE FINISHED: July 24th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  When the family is cursed by a ‘devil’ islander, the narrator’s grandfather as a boy is uprooted from the home he has known and transplanted into an alternative island life, now under the care of his uncle and ‘his mulatto’, while his father stays behind, and his mother is placed in an asylum.  A history of curses, mixed race unions and cultural bigotry haunts the family through generations.

THOUGHTS:  In the first part of the book some intriguing images are introduced but the characters appear as though within a dream or trance-like state.  In the second part of the book, however, the narrative becomes more linear Read more of this post

In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig

DATE FINISHED: July 18th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Benedick is miserable: recently divorced, acting career in the doldrums, at war with his father, and barely able to look after himself, let alone his two young children (who ex-wife Georgie keeps insisting spend time with him). Taking refuge in the home of Ruth, the woman who raised him as one of her own, Benedick suddenly realises he can remember almost nothing about his real mother, who committed suicide when he was six years old. Inspired by a book of fairy tales written and illustrated by Laura, he embarks upon a quest to discover more about her, whether she was mad as many of her ‘friends’ seem to claim, and what drove her beyond the brink.

THOUGHTS:  In the sheer unlikeability of lead character Benedick, Craig sets herself for a potentially huge downfall – he is irritating, whiny, hypocritical, rude, quite simply unpleasant. Those readers who force themselves beyond this, however, will be rewarded Read more of this post

TBR – latest additions:

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson

Has actually been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, but is in danger of being read before too long due to some new discoveries with similar themes/backgrounds that have recently caught my attention.  In this story, Bartholomew Fortuno is one of Barnum’s collection of sideshow ‘freaks’.

The Devil’s Footprints by John Burnside

Not really sure quite how much I want to read this one, but with A Summer of Drowning unexpectedly entering my list of all-time favourites it would be foolhardy not to at least try one of his earlier novels (with the exception of The Dumb House which I read and did not enjoy – despite a promising premise – about 15 years ago).

Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson

Another Barnum-based tale of personal transformation.

The Romance of the Thin Man and the Fat Lady by Robert Coover

One of Penguin’s recently issued Mini Modern Classics Series (£3 each), the title of this one says it all.

Dreamland by Tom Gilling

This looks completely different to Gilling’s last novel (Miles McGinty) but I loved that one so much that I must try this one, upon discovering it exists.  More of a thriller, but I’m always trying to find a crime novel that I might like so maybe this one will fit the bill…?

Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett

Another well-reviewed Australian discovery – sounds like a coming-of-age kind of story – this one is not published until the end of August.

Little People by Jane Sullivan

Along with three of the first four titles on this list, there is a Barnum connection in this story of General Tom Thumb as his troupe tours Australia (neatly dovetailing with another of my pet themes).

Mateship With Birds by Carrie Tiffany

From the reviews, I am not certain I will like this one, but I enjoyed Tiffany’s first novel Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, so I am interested to see how she has developed.  And I loved the cover of this book, so had to splash out on the hardback.

The Habits of the House by Fay Weldon

This was released in June & I can’t believe I’ve only just heard of it!  But as I have a bit of a hit & miss relationship with her (review of Kehua) I will probably wait for the paperback.

The Hanging Garden by Patrick White
The Solid Mandala by Patrick White
The Vivisector by Patrick White

These are on the ‘maybe-maybe not’ pile, and will be largely dependent on how I get on with A Fringe of Leaves.  The Hanging Garden was unfinished at the time he died so already interesting from that perspective.

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

DATE FINISHED: May 2nd, 2012

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  In the 1930s, Harriet Baxter is an ‘old maid’ looking back on her acquaintance with the Gillespie family, back in the 1890s.  Following a chance encounter on a Glasgow street, Harriet’s friendship with the family grows over the following months, and she becomes an ardent fan of up-and-coming artist Ned Gillespie’s work.   When the Gillespies’ younger daughter disappears, however, relations become strained…

THOUGHTS:   If you have read any reviews of this book, it is impossible to approach it without the knowledge that Harriet is an ‘unreliable narrator’.   Read more of this post

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

DATE FINISHED: September 11th, 2011

RATED: ***

SYNOPSIS:  Kimberley Chang and her mother have high hopes for their new life in America, despite barely speaking a word of English between them.  However, it soon becomes clear that the aunt who paid for their passage has no qualms about leaving them to live in a slum rental property without heating, and having them work long factory hours for pitiful remuneration.  Will they still find a way to live the American Dream?

THOUGHTS:  The narrative is quiet and understated; an easy read.  But Kimberley and her mother face their challenges so stoically, it is hard to see them as challenges.   Read more of this post

Kehua! by Fay Weldon

DATE FINISHED: September 11th, 2011

RATED: ***

SYNOPSIS:  Kehua are Maori spirits, whose role is to shepherd unsettled souls back into the family fold, so that they can rest in peace.  But how did they get to Highgate in London?  And does it matter if the kehua occasionally get their instructions to ‘run’ mixed up with a command to ‘kill’…?  Beverley has lived in London for the whole of her adult life but the demons of her past seem destined to be visited upon her daughter, granddaughters, great-granddaughter until the kehua are able to set things straight…

THOUGHTS:  Weldon is up-front in her use of the kehua as a metaphor for inherited family behaviours – but then, there are very few authorial devices we are not privy to in this novel, Read more of this post

Our Precious Lulu by Anne Fine

DATE FINISHED: April 26th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS: Lulu – ex-stepdaughter/stepsister – is the archetypal cuckoo in the nest. Since their shared childhood, Geraldine has always felt eclipsed by Lulu’s dramatic moods, demands and sneaky tricks, and her mother’s determination to sweep the drama under the carpet at Geraldine’s expense. Luckily, the unflappable and relentlessly supportive Robert is on Geraldine’s side, but as parenthood looms for one of the ‘sisters’, Geraldine’s frustration builds to breaking point. Something has to give – but who or what will it be?

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post

The Hearts and Lives of Men by Fay Weldon

DATE FINISHED: April 23rd, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:Helen and Clifford fall in love at first sight, and the conception of Nell is the result. Love is simply not enough, however, and while Helen and Clifford are caught up in a bitter cycle of divorce and re-marriage, hurt and neediness, Nell disappears, falling into a series of bizarre guardianships until fate guides her back into the art world inhabited by her parents.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post

The Emigre by Joan Brady

DATE FINISHED: March 6th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS: Nikolas Strakhan is a lifelong conman – a talented but failed musician, did he sell his soul to the devil? Either way, he is the black sheep of his extended family, living by his charm & wit. When he turns up in the London papers about to conduct an orchestra, scientist Evie (Bored at work – and, to be honest, also with her boyfriend) becomes fascinated by the exploits of her boyfriend’s curiously charismatic, overweight uncle.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post