Novel Weldon, Fay Rhode Island Blues

ISBN 13: 9780006551621

Rhode Island Blues

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9780006551621: Rhode Island Blues

Weldon on top form; Weldon tackling love, sex, ageing, death; Weldon at her wittiest best; Weldon unparalleled.

Sophia is a thirty-four-year-old film editor living in Soho. Her only living relation (she thinks), her grandmother Felicity, is an eighty-three-year-old widow (several times) living in smart Connecticut. Sophia is torn between her delight in her freedom and a nagging desire for the family ties that everyone else grumbles about: casual sex is all very well, but who do you spend Christmas with? Her current bed-mate seems to be in love with a glamorous Hollywood film star (not that Sophia cares, of course: she’s a New Woman); her mad mother is dead. All she has is Felicity.

But Felicity is not your average granny. Temperamental, sophisticated, chic (and alarmingly eccentric), she has seen much of life, love and sex and is totally prepared to see more. Even if it is from a twilight home (The Golden Bowl Complex for Creative Retirement)…Twilight is not at all Felicity’s idea of fun; and quite possibly she has more idea of fun than her granddaughter.

As the two women’s stories unravel, the past rears up with all its grimness and irony; but points the way to a future that may redeem them both.

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Review:

"I am 85. What I think I say. It is my privilege": the strident tones of "Miss Felicity"--grandmother, sophisticate, survivor--strikes the chord for Fay Weldon's new novel, Rhode Island Blues. Political and often provocative, in her fiction, Weldon has tracked the course of women's lives through her writing (from Down Among the Women to Big Women).

In Rhode Island Blues, she turns to the themes of sex and ageing, family and history, love and confinement. The complex, sometimes unwilling, relation between grand-mother and grand-daughter, Sophia--a film-editor, living in Soho --is central to a story that, focusing on Sophia's quest to find her grandmother's first daughter (adopted at birth), gradually uncovers the tragic losses of Felicity's life. At the same time you question whether these losses are still tragic to Felicity (who's carving out a new life, and lover, for herself at the Golden Bowl retirement home. And you may wonder what is going on in Sophia's attempt to find herself a family through the romance of her grandmother's life: "I wanted a family: she could put up with it," is Sophia's unabashed take on what she is doing.

Shuttling between her women, Weldon takes every opportunity to give her account of the shortcomings of the world she is creating (most notably, the "children of the therapy age"). But the "wit" for which Weldon is so well-known seems to miss its mark in Rhode Island Blues. The ties which bind generations of women together--as mothers, daughters, friends--have supported some of the most vivid and exploratory contemporary novels (Marge Piercy's recent Three Women, for example). There's a lack of compassion in Rhode Island Blues that jars with the subtlety, and painfulness, of its subject--replacing fiction's potential for surprise with the predictability of political tract. --Vicky Lebeau

Review:

‘Meticulously planned and mightily enjoyable, Fay Weldon’s latest is a real treat.’ Daily Mail

‘As delightfully idiosyncratic as its mettlesome heroines, this novel is well up to Weldon’s high standard of fictional entertainment.’ The Times

‘Good-humoured, wise and entertaining novel…There is so much to enjoy and admire in Rhode Island Blues.’ Spectator

‘This is terrific stuff. Nobobdy writes about the lot of modern women – and men – with the wisdom or wit of Fay Weldon…Marvellous.’ Sunday Herald, Glasgow

‘A substantial treat for those long autumn evenings after a summer of superficial beach and airport novels.’ Ham & High

‘The Golden Girls on acid.’ Sunday Express

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