THE LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE-DEVIL by Fay Weldon

THE LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE-DEVIL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A dozen or so years ago, this black-comic Avenging Woman fable might have been a bracing winner--especially if pared down to more flattering short-story dimensions. Now, following that long decade of angry-wife fiction, it's a stylish, sporadically amusing throwback. ""I love my husband and I hate Mary Fisher."" So writes off-and-on narrator Ruth, the too-tall, too-lumpy, too-plain wife of handsome accountant Bobbo--a male monster who married ""this vast, Obliging mountain"" as a convenience. . . and who has openly philandered ever since; rich, pretty, aging romance-writer Mary Fisher is the latest affair. And when long-suffering Ruth shows a wee touch of displeasure, Bobbo declares: ""You are a third-rate person. You are a bad mother, a worse wife, and a dreadful cook. In fact I don't think you are a woman at all. I think what you are is a she-devil!"" So Ruth, suddenly shaken out of her passivity, decides now to be a she-devil--ruthlessly pursuing revenge, money, power. (""I want to be loved and not love in return."") She burns her house down, dumps her two kids on Bobbo and Mary Fisher, even arranges for this strained, now-doomed household to be joined by Mary's incontinent, senile mother. Ruth changes her name, seduces a few pathetic men for gain, opens an employment agency--using her clients to help frame Bobbo as an embezzler. (She also sleeps with a judge, to make sure that Bobbo gets a stiff sentence.) And eventually Ruth will spend millions of dollars--and endure immeasurable agony--in order to get a head-to-toe makeover, the nth degree in horrific cosmetic surgery. . . so that she can be desirable enough to turn the tables on Bobbo. ""Sometimes I let Bobbo sleep with me. Or I take my lovers in front of him. . . . I cause Bobbo as much misery as he ever caused me, and more. I try not to, but somehow it is not a matter of male or female, after all; it never was: merely of power."" Too cartoonish and unshaded for involvement, too belabored for bright wickedness: an obvious parable of sexual power and female-role traps, occasionally rising above the polemics into darkly inspired farce--thanks to Weldon's satanic-Mary-Poppins narration.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1984
ISBN: 0795308027
Publisher: Pantheon