The Life and Loves of a She-Devil: Review
The astonishing revenge of a woman scorned
Wow, what a book we have here. The author, Fay Wheldon, has written the ultimate revenge novel that will totally knock your socks off.
Wheldon is known as a 'feminist author' (whatever on earth that may mean) and in this fascinating book, female stereotypes are viciously torn apart.
A wife's revenge on a mistress
Most of us have experience of divorce. If not personally, we've lived through the marital problems of our family members of friends. Many women who have been left for 'new and improved versions' have dreamed of revenge but Ruth, the she-devil of the title, exacts her revenge in a way that most of us could never even imagine. Brilliantly.
Ruth is big. She is hardly attractive.She is, quite literally, 'warts and all'. Her husband, the unfortunately named Bobbo, leaves her to live with Mary Fisher, a romantic novelist and a client of his accountancy firm.
Mary is attractive, delicate, intelligent and rich. What on earth could Ruth possibly do to exact her revenge? She is big, ungainly and unattractive. She has two kids and no money. She has no skills and despite the title of the book, she is a mere mortal with no supernatural or mysterious powers. No matter how much you ponder the problem, you're unlikely to come up with the answer.
The good guy and the bad guy
We are accustomed, in books and in films, for the bad guy to be the ugly one and the goodie being attractive. (Think Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters). I don't know how you'll feel when you read this book but I was rooting for Ruth all the way. I bet you will too.
Not a revenge story?
Although the author claims that this is not a novel about revenge,I don't really see how she could justify this statement.
It certainly is about female roles and stereotypes but the fact that the attractive and ungainly wife is determined to wreak havoc in the lives of her husband and his mistress seems pretty much like revenge to me.
The author may not have intended the book to be about revenge but that's how it is perceived by millions of readers.
I imagine that in a rather perverse way it has brought a measure of comfort to women whose husbands have left them for a Mary Fisher-like character.
Mary appears to have everything. She's an independent woman, making her own good living.She's attractive, slim and charming. She has a beautiful home.
She has everything that Ruth doesn't have. Now, that even includes Ruth's husband.
It's interesting that her husband has always regarded the marriage as an open one and has never been particularly careful to hide his relationship with Mary Fisher.
This arrogance on his part is one of the reasons that makes the reader sympathise with Ruth. She has done nothing wrong. She has been treated heartlessly and harshly by this man. Who would blame her if she wanted to ruin his new life and his cosy little relationship?
But then we come to the big question. Ruth is determined to exact her revenge and does so in stunning style. But will this make her happy?
You might also be interested in other books by the same author.
There was a truly dreadful film made of this book in Hollywood. There was also a TV series in the 1980s that was a great deal more faithful to the book. I've added some clips from it below to give you some idea of the book.
Of course, it has a very nineteen eighties feel and I don't think that the production team made as much of the book as they could have done but nevertheless, this will give you a flavour of this excellent novel which I highly recommend.
Sample pages from the bookClick thumbnail to view full-size
© 2013 Jackie Jackson