06 July 2013

The Life & Loves of a She Devil


Back cover synopsis: What can a woman do when her husband accuses her of being a “she-devil” and leaves her for another woman? Especially if that woman is six foot two, has a jutting jaw, a hooked nose and moles on her chin. And her rival is petite, ultra-feminine and a successful novelist....

First line: Mary Fisher lives in a High Tower, on the edge of the sea: she writes a great deal about the nature of love.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Hodder & Stoughton, 1983; 240 pages; given to me by a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts: I was swept up and enchanted by this book almost from the first page, although towards the end the enchantment wore off. Ruth is described as a large, lumbering, plain, not pretty or attractive at all woman married to Bobbo, whom she loves. Bobbo is having a not secret affair with Mary Fisher, who is Ruth's opposite in every way imaginable, and whom he loves. After a family dinner with his parents goes horribly wrong, Bobbo decides he's had enough, tells Ruth she's a she devil, packs his bags, and moves in with Mary Fisher. Thus begins Ruth's road to revenge.*

Some chapters are told in first person point of view with Ruth as the narrator, other chapters are in third person. The writing is what drew me in. The author has a distinctive voice, regardless of which point of view is being used at the time. It's almost lyrical, sort of in the vein of an old fashioned fairytale set in modern times.

Ruth's plan to take down Mary Fisher and Bobbo is very long reaching, with plenty of planning and manipulation. At first I felt sympathetic towards Ruth. She is a woman scorned, a woman who's husband ignored her and took her for granted and then tossed her aside. Her heart has been broken, her life destroyed. But as she carried out her Machiavellian plan, she became so ruthless, so cruel, so hard hearted, that it became difficult to feel sympathy for her, and instead I moved more towards being Team Mary Fisher. At that point the book lost it's enchantment for me, and I was ready for the story to be over and done with.

Still, I very much want to read more from Ms. Weldon, and maybe more about her as she seems a very interesting person.

*I looked up Ms. Weldon on Wikipedia, which says that she says this book is about envy, not about revenge. That quote led me to Google Ms. Weldon, where I found a very interesting interview with her, Fay Weldon: 'All that anti-man stuff is no longer appropriate'.

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