Now, from the writer who made grisly comic fodder of an ugly woman's revenge in The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
comes the first novel to take the long, and caustic, view of the feminist orthodoxies of the last 30 years and the women who embraced, disseminated, and were sometimes disappointed by them. Deftly managing the biggest cast she's yet conjured, Fay Weldon recounts the 1971 founding of distaff Medusa Press by a goofily believable gaggle of British feminists--Stephanie, the beautiful one; Alice, the philosopher; Layla, the ambitious; Nancy the organized, who becomes Medusa's office manager; blonde Daffy, of the breeder urges; Zoe, the wife and mother who writes a feminist classic and commits suicide, the novel's sole victim of patriarchal oppression. Everyone else, male and female alike, is more the casualty of ideas at odds with desires and the inexorable ironies of trickster time. A lot of the comedy is deadpan, funny because it's true--who but Weldon would risk admitting that the venerable feminist saying A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle
is a head-scratchingly opaque bit of sloganeering?
One of the great strengths, and charms, of Big Girls Don't Cry is that the heroines of the 1970s become the middle-aged mothers of the late 1990s; in most feminist fiction babies are burdens or betrayals, but not real people: here as in life, they are ascendant, products of their upbringing, characters to be reckoned with. Weldon's twentysomethings are as lovingly and astringently drawn as her fiftysomethings, and have as much to contribute to the clever plot. If you ever want to found a mother-daughter book club, consider making this your first selection. --Joyce Thompson
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From Publishers Weekly
Weldon's lightly satirical 22nd novel (after Worst Fears) takes a characteristically tart look back at the early days of feminism as experienced by four Londoners. In 1971 Layla, Zoe and Alice gather in Stephie's living room to engage in consciousness-raising while, in an upstairs bedroom, Stephie's husband, Hamish, deprograms a convert. The women discover this sexual betrayal just as Zoe's abusive husband, Bull, arrives to save her soul from women's lib. Provoked by these outrages, the remaining three decide to establish Medusa, a publishing house devoted to women's works. Soon they're joined by Nancy, who dumps her boring boyfriend to manage the office (and lives) of her newfound sisters. Meanwhile, Layla's anti-male resolve crumbles and she sleeps with Hamish; Stephie, having launched the radical feminist magazine Menstra, gets bored and seduces the handyman; and Nancy, assured of Medusa's success, reunites with her boyfriend. Alice alone remains celibate, dedicated to I Ching, pyramids and rose crystals, a New Age recluse. Zoe becomes the sisterhood's sacrificial lamb, committing suicide after Bull burns the manuscript she's been creating in secret. Weldon leaves it up to the younger generation?particularly Zoe's daughter, Saffron, to set things right. Weldon aficionados will recognize the predatory males, stock figures in the writer's repertoire, and the savvily sketched predicaments facing her feisty feminist heroines. Weldon wryly applauds the effort it takes to remain faithful to the cause. As the revisionist Layla points out, men are people, too.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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