THE RULES OF LIFE by Fay Weldon

THE RULES OF LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A whimsically serious but finally slight satire from the capable hand of Weldon (The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, The Shrapnel Academy, etc.), this little snack--the third title (see Rendell, p. 596) in its publisher's new short-novel series--weighs in at a bite-size 80-or-so pages, including illustrations. The year is 2002, the official religion is GNFR (Great New Fictional Religion), and God has been replaced by GSWITS (The Great Screen Writer In The Sky). High-ranking priests spend their time prowling graveyards at night, tape-recording the ""voices"" of dead people (who are called ""re-winds""), while their lowlier counterparts in the church hierarchy sit at rows of flickering consoles in ""the Temple that was once the British Museum"" and play back these ""voices of the dead."" One such listener-scribe, the novella's unnamed narrator, plays back the captured voice of Gabriella Sumpter, three months dead (""1941-2002. R.I.P.""), at first hating her for her wanton immorality (""I want her punished. There must be punishment""), then slowly falling in love with her upon hearing the tales of her life at the hands of chance and of crass men ("" 'Oh, my beloved Miss Sumpter. . . If only you and I had been written into the same script'""). Highlights are the death of Gabriella's wronged mother, stung in the throat by a wasp sipped in her champagne; her father--womanizer, bully, and gambler à la Squire Western--betting away not only his once-rich mansion but his now-penurious daughter as well (the terms of the bet: ""How many peas in a Birds Eye Jumbo packet?""); and the irrepressible Gabriella herself half falling and half climbing from one lover to another, men who in their various ways use her, yearn for her, and sometimes die for her (""alas, he hanged himself in the bathroom. . .where little pink-lacquered birds flew across gilded tiles""), while she concludes that ""in their hearts all men despise women."" Pleasant, but in the end more thin than robust--a scent of Waugh here, of Woolf there--and in a very small bottle, at considerable cost per ounce.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row