THE CLONING OF JOANNA MAY by Fay Weldon
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THE CLONING OF JOANNA MAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The deceptively lightsome and airy voice of the English satirist/fabulist/feminist (The Hearts and Lives of Men, 1988, etc.) sounds a variety of doomlets here concerning the lethal relationship between the sexes. Along the way, there are a reading of peak-to-peak hostilities, a modicum of sci-fi hi-tech, creative cosmology, and a shuffle of Tarot card symbols. The female principal, Joanna May, aged 60, is also the Female Principle--all guilt and helplessness in the face of ex-husband Carl May, mega-exec of this-and-that, including two nuclear power stations (from which there was ""only the occasional release of unscheduled radioactivity""). Carl, whose tender childhood was spent chained in a kennel, is a monster and murderer (he will have Joanna's two lovers and her dogs expunged); and, in fact, one of Carl's major nasties took place 30 years ago--when, to ""multiply Joanna's love for him,"" he arranged for a dandy operation by which (thanks to a ""parthenogenesis plus implantation"") four clones of Joanna were produced (without her knowledge) and born to four different women. Before Joanna meets her clones--the Four Queens of the Tarot: Jane the intellect, Julie the bored housewife, Gina the battered wife and mother, and Alice the sensualist--Carl refreshes himself with bimbette Bethany and comforts Britain after Chernobyl (""Children may safely drink milk, though sheep may no longer graze on the uplands""), while Joanna comes to the conclusion that ""the truth is many, not one."" Many, indeed: when clones and Joanna meet, the soul is multiplied but ""female guilt is quartered."" Carl gets his at last, but is remade under the supervision of the cleareyed clones. Although this tends to be top heavy with invention at times, still Weldon's wit and sass keep the pace and chilly amusements jouncing on.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Viking