Fay Weldon is one of the best British female writers of my lifetime, second only to the late Angela Carter. Her latest achievement, Wicked Women is a stunning collection of short stories.
Weldon’s writing comes from an instantly recogniseable place. From the career girl satisfying her boss out of hours to the middle-class housewife bound by feelings of duty and principle, her characters and situations are drawn from everyday life. In this respect Fay Weldon makes use of stereotypes in these stories. But she develops them in such a way as to explode the sense of security into which her reader has been lulled, almost like a shock tactic except her style is more subtle than that. The joy of her writing is that it is easy to read but her art is to really make you think.
One of the stories which best explains Weldon’s general thesis is At the End of the Line. It is strikingly new and different. H.G. Wells The Time Machine provides the background to this feminist analysis of contemporary life. In Weldon’s vision the male world is doomed and it is her women, who don’t need men, who possess the necessary creative strength for the future. Instead of repeating this theme over and again, however, her terrific imagination and wide range of ideas are exciting and stimulating.
The reason that this book will appeal to people of my twenty-something generation is that Weldon makes us understand the legacy of the 60s while offering a view which is radical in itself today. She is a writer who has in many ways broken with the English feminist movement while still very much engaging with certain aspects of the literary tradition. In a very reasonable way Fay Weldon can make the most immodest proposals.
Reviewed by Lucy Boardman