The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Auto da Fay, by Fay Weldon

I am a big fan of Fay Weldon’s fiction, so when I read that she’d written a somewhat controversial memoir, I had two thoughts: “well, of course,” and “I’ll get it in paperback.” Instead, I read the book  on Kindle, but it is definitely the story of what I will term an “unorthodox” life.

I expected more about Weldon’s writing life, and bits and pieces pop up here and there. But with a childhood like hers, it’s no surprise that much of the book is focused on her early years in New Zealand. Weldon’s father, a physician, left the family — Weldon, her mother, and her sister, Jane — when Fay was fairly young. From that point on, they struggled financially, the respite for Fay and Jane being summers with their father. But that ended when he remarried and their mother came into an inheritance that she promptly squandered by relocating the family to England immediately after WWII, plunging them into poverty once more.

Never staying in the same place for long led to irregular schooling at many schools, but Weldon earned a scholarship to St. Andrew’s College back in a time when women didn’t do such a thing and professors sometimes refused to acknowledge them as students. Following this, she hopped around in her career before landing in copywriting, just as she hopped around in various beds before landing with Ron Weldon — her second husband of three.  She had four sons, the first out of wedlock, though she pretended to be abandoned or a widow, and three with Weldon, who refused to allow her to have a washing machine or typewriter in the house, both on the grounds that they were too noisy. (Like four young boys are not?)

And from all that experience, Fay Weldon wrote a bunch of intriguing and often darkly funny books. The memoir reveals where she acquired certain geographical familiarities or experiences. For example, her father would take Fay and her sister along on house calls at night, leaving them to sleep in the car — something the father of one of her protagonists also did. All in all, one gets the sense that Weldon’s cantankerous genius flows from her experiences. No wonder she disdains research for books — her life has obviated the need for that.

Here is a random representative quote, a new book review feature I’ll be including for books I read via Kindle:

Men may annoy women but by and large they are very good for them, as women are for men. 

I will say that the first part of the book was so depressing that I wasn’t sure I could continue. I’m glad I did, though, and I am recommending Auto da Fay to anyone who has read any of Fay Weldon’s fiction.

As for animals, there are a few mildly disturbing images, but nothing graphic, and no animal characters as such. Therefore, I am declaring this book SAFE for animal lovers.

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January 6, 2011 - Posted by | autobiography, Book Reviews, families, memoir, nonfiction | , , ,

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