Email this review


Something like a flip version (if not quite a parody) of an Angus Wilson novel, this stylish folderol from the author of a recent John Milton biography (p. 113) brings together--with operatic, winking implausibility--assorted descendants of a late-19th-century architect named Oswald Fish. Fanny Williams--ex-pop-star, owner of the chic/ kinky ""Fanny"" boutiques, divorced mum of two dirty-minded tots--has just purchased an unused church in Birmingham for her new warehouse, a church which was the sole architectural triumph of one Oswald Fish. But little does Fanny know--at least at first--that she is Fish's great-granddaughter! (We know, because Fanny's grand-mum is in the midst of reading her raunchy, ne'er-do-well father's memoirs.) Furthermore, who happens to be the town-council lawyer up in Birmingham who's set to negotiate the deal with Fanny? Yes, indeed: Fred Jobling, miserably married and instantly in love with Fanny (she fruitily responds in kind), is also a Fish--descended from Oswald's brother, whose wife ran off with Oswald. (Thus, Fanny and Fred share a great-grand-mum.) Furthermore, Fanny's beloved tenant--bisexual black barrister Charles Bullowewo--turns out to be descended from one of Oswald's far-flung dalliances. And so it goes, as the focus revolves about--from the Fred/Fanny romance (sex in a cemetery) . . . to Bullowewo's latest affair (with a married architecture expert). . . to the controversy over the church. . . to the slimy doings of Fanny's kiddies, voyeur photographers whose nasty exposures cause one suicide and one murder. Wilson strains too hard for laughs now and again: Fanny indulges in unfunny malapropisms. And the shift from fluff to dark irony in the later chapters is unsuccessful. But, for devotees of dry yet giddy British comedy of the elegant/bawdy sort, much of this elaborate concoction offers modestly stylish amusement.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles