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RHODE ISLAND BLUES by Fay Weldon

RHODE ISLAND BLUES

By Fay Weldon

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-87113-775-5
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Our preeminent fictional chronicler of the war between men and women takes a break to report on the state of battles between continents, generations, past and present.

Or so at first it seems when Sophia King, whose knowledge of life is based on the films she's edited, gets an imperious phone call from her grandmother, Felicity Bax, demanding that Sophia help Felicity sell her house in Connecticut and find a living situation more suitable for a person of her advancing years. For Sophia, orphaned, unmarried, and unloved but for the intermittent embraces of preoccupied director Harry Krassner, the summons is a call to arms—an invitation to confront her dead, insane mother Angel, her own dereliction in failing to rush to Felicity's bedside during an earlier medical emergency, and the brave new world of America, which Weldon is visiting for the first time. As unquenchable Felicity, aided by Sophia, the I Ching, and her fractious New England neighbor Joy, plows ahead on the new adventure of locating new digs, settling into the plush, sinister Golden Bowl Complex ("a CIA training ground for surveillance techniques and psychological warfare"), and embarking on a December-November love affair with an alarmingly incorrigible gambler, Sophia burrows more deeply into her family history, and soon shakes loose relatives she had never known about. But Felicity's escapades and Sophia's investigations alike reveal a familiar cast of villains—uncaring patriarchs, conniving mistresses, self-justifying parasites of both sexes—whose selfishness, greed, and cruelty Weldon's joyously caustic cadences hammer as they frolic and tickle the humorously humane readers she invites us to be.

Despite its apparent departures from her mold, this ends up as one of Weldon's most characteristic fairy tales, with the novelist (Big Girls Don't Cry, 1998, etc.) pressed once more into the role of the fairy godmother who'll rescue her heroines from the plots swirling perhaps a little too generously about them.