Though billed as a novel, this very slight tale of a man and woman who switch souls on a stairway cedes about half its pages to an acerbic continuation of Weldon’s recent memoir, Auto da Fay (2003).
If only it were that engrossing. The narrative begins well enough, introducing us to Trisha, who gave up a modestly successful acting career nine years ago when she won the lottery but has now run through every penny. Selling all the expensive junk she acquired will barely cover her debts, so sexy, goodhearted, not-so-young Trisha goes to live above a dry-cleaners in a fringe-y section of London, promising the rapacious female proprietor that she will help out with the mending. “So far so good,” as Weldon writes after her cogent introduction of a heroine whose “soul was much like her mattress: soiled but comfortable.” Unfortunately, this phrase introduces the author’s rambling memories of her life and loves, which increasingly intrude into Trisha’s story and ensure that readers are captivated by neither. Just as we relax into Weldon’s amusingly cranky reminiscences, deciding that we will forgive the 73-year-old writer a certain amount of old-fart complaining (“our whole existence is threaded through with cheapo TV fiction”), we’re yanked back to Trisha or—worse—Peter, the yuppie who eventually ends up in her body and his tiresome girlfriend Doralee. (It’s symptomatic of the book’s general sloppiness that Doralee is “size 10 aiming for a size 8” in one chapter, a “size six thirty-two-year-old” 23 pages later.) Weldon’s eye for human weakness and vanity is as sharp and unforgiving as ever, and there’s mean-spirited fun to be had in her blistering account of husband Ron Weldon’s self-pity and self-serving contempt for his wife’s popular success. But she barely tries to make her absurd plot premise credible, or at least compelling, and she blows off her characters with a blood-soaked but silly finale.
So lazy and off-the-cuff that one wonders if the author even bothered to reread her first draft.