Chalcot Crescent, By Fay Weldon

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The Independent Culture

The wonderful thing about being a grand dame of English letters, as Fay Weldon has undoubtedly become, is that you can say whatever you please. And so it comes to pass: in her latest novel, Weldon rants on about the therapy that ruined her marriage, expresses her faith in boys of the younger generation, critiques our materialistic society, and laments the passing of the revolutionary values of the 1960s. In some form or another, we have heard all this before, but Weldon's fans will not be disappointed.

Chalcot Crescent is narrated by 80-year-old Frances, the younger sister of Fay. (Weldon makes no secret of the autobiographical elements of this story: her mother suffered a miscarriage when Weldon was two; Frances is that imagined sister.) It is 2013, and thanks to the banks, we are now enjoying Soviet-style living conditions. Everything is state-run and rationed, and powdered eggs have made a comeback. Frances looks back over her many marriages and love affairs, makes harsh judgements about her children, and wonders where it all went so wrong. This is more social comment than well-developed novel, but it's fun and smart just the same.