Like satirist Fay Weldon, first-novelist White deals with what Weldon's booster quote here refers to as ``domestic infamy'': here, in a tale of an ego-squashed little wife in search of her husband's love, who—after some bizarre plotting and precipitous pratfalls- -emerges fulfilled, fat, and free-standing. Ellie Freeman and husband Malcolm, both in their 40s, live in the unlovely Liverpool neighborhood of Nelson Street. In a dressing gown ``the color of a cornflake,'' Ellie listens to Malcolm, an overweight warehouseman, growling downstairs—but in her pocket she hides a letter announcing that she's won ú1,525,000 in a sweepstake. After several frazzled starts, Ellie decides to ``buy'' Malcolm a career by investing in a struggling blinds-firm that would be thereby obliged to hire her husband. (All this secretly, with the curiously interested help of a bank executive.) The magic wand is waved, and Malcolm is transformed from ``moaning, miserable and hopeless'' to confident, glib, and charming. But two cars and a bungalow later, Ellie discovers that she's become even more insecure and lonely, and, worse, she's created in Malcolm a monster, arisen from Nelson Street clay. He leaves her for the stunning gallery-manager Gabriella, whose clothes ``flutter several feet behind her.'' Ellie's revenge on the way to recapturing Malcolm—a virtuoso performance involving the roosting of Nelson Street's most colorful citizens amongst the posh, along with general mayhem—is blunted by wholesale betrayal. But Ellie, hitherto rattled, buffeted, living for and in another, will finally find herself—``confused, funny, pathetic, emotional but basically likeable.'' An entertaining debut from a sure English talent, with not only a satiric thrust but a wealth of gritty, compassionate recognitions—as well as the knowledge that in poor neighborhoods, the dawn does not arise but merely ``flops'' and ``slinks.''
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