Fay Weldon CBE FRSL (born 22 September 1931) is an English author, essayist and playwright, whose work has been associated with feminism. In her fiction, Weldon typically portrays contemporary women who find themselves trapped in oppressive situations caused by the patriarchal structure of British society.
Weldon was born Franklin Birkinshaw in Birmingham, England, to a literary family, with both her maternal grandfather, Edgar Jepson (1863–1938), and her mother Margaret writing novels (the latter under the nom de plume Pearl Bellairs, alter-ego of the eponymous character in Aldous Huxley's short story, "Farcical History of Richard Greenow"). Weldon spent her early years in Auckland, New Zealand, where her father worked as a doctor. She attended Christchurch Girls' High School for two years from 1944, then at the age of 14, after her parents' divorce, she returned to England with her mother and her sister Jane. She never saw her father again. While in England she attended South Hampstead High School.
She studied psychology and economics at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, but returned to London after giving birth to a son. Soon afterwards she married her first husband, Ronald Bateman, who was a headmaster 25 years her senior and not the natural father of her child, and moved to Acton, London. She left him after two years, and the marriage ended.
In order to support herself and her son, and provide for his education, Weldon started working in the advertising industry. As head of copywriting, she was responsible for publicising (but not originating) the phrase "Go to work on an egg". She coined the slogan "Vodka gets you drunker quicker," saying in a Guardian interview, "It just seemed ... to be obvious that people who wanted to get drunk fast needed to know this." Her bosses disagreed and suppressed it.
At 29 she met Ron Weldon, a jazz musician and antiques dealer. They married and had three sons, the first of whom was born in 1963. It was during her second pregnancy that Weldon began writing for radio and television. A few years later, in 1967, she published her first novel, The Fat Woman's Joke. For the next 30 years she built a very successful career, publishing over twenty novels, collections of short stories, films for television, newspaper and magazine articles and becoming a well-known face and voice on the BBC. In 1971 Weldon wrote the first episode of the landmark television series Upstairs, Downstairs, for which she won a Writers Guild award for Best British TV Series Script. In 1980 Weldon wrote the screenplay for director/producer John Goldschmidt's television movie Life for Christine, which told the true story of a 15-year-old girl's life imprisonment. The film was shown in prime-time on the ITV Network by Granada Television. She also wrote the screenplay for the 1980 BBC miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. In 1989, she contributed to the book for the Petula Clark West End musical Someone Like You. In a 1998 interview for the Radio Times Weldon claimed that rape "isn't the worst thing that can happen to a woman if you're safe, alive and unmarked after the event." She was roundly condemned by feminists for this assertion.
During her marriage to Ron Weldon, the couple visited therapists regularly. They divorced in 1994, after he left her for his astrological therapist who had told him that the couple's astrological signs were incompatible. They had lived in East Compton, Somerset. She subsequently married Nick Fox, a poet who is also her manager, with whom she currently lives in Dorset.
In 1996, she was a member of the jury at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival. She was also chair of judges for the 1983 Booker Prize. The judging for that prize produced a draw between J. M. Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K and Salman Rushdie's Shame, leaving Weldon to choose between the two. According to Stephen Moss in The Guardian, "Her arm was bent and she chose Rushdie" only to change her mind as the result was being phoned through.
In 2000 Weldon became a member of the Church of England and was confirmed in St Paul's Cathedral, which was perhaps appropriate because she states that she likes to think that she was "converted by St Paul".
In 2001 Weldon's novel The Bulgari Connection became notorious for its product placement, naming the jewellers not only in the title but another 33 times, while 12 times at least was appointed in the £18,000 contract.
In 2006 Weldon was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University in West London: "A great writer needs a certain personality and a natural talent for language, but there is a great deal that can be taught – how to put words together quickly and efficiently to make a point, how to be graceful and eloquent, how to convey emotion, how to build up tension, and how to create alternative worlds."
Weldon serves together with Daniel Pipes as the most notable foreign members of the board of the Danish Press Freedom Society (Trykkefrihedsselskabet).
- The Fat Woman's Joke (1967)
- Down Among the Women (1971)
- Female Friends (1975)
- Remember Me (1976)
- Little Sisters (1977)
- Weekend (1978)
- Praxis (1978)
- Puffball (1980)
- The President's Child (1982)
- The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983)
- Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen (1984)
- The Shrapnel Academy (1986)
- The Rules of Life (1987)
- The Heart of the Country (1987)
- The Hearts and Lives of Men (1987)
- Leader of the Band (1988)
- The Cloning of Joanna May (1989)
- Darcy's Utopia (1990)
- Trouble (1993)
- Affliction (1994)
- Growing Rich (1992)
- Life Force (1992)
- Splitting (1995)
- Worst Fears (1996)
- Big Women (1997)
- My Mother Said (1998)
- Godless in Eden (1999)
- Rhode Island Blues (2000)
- The Bulgari Connection (2001)
- Mantrapped (2004)
- She May Not Leave (2006)
- What Makes Women Happy (2006)
- The Spa Decameron (2007)
- The Stepmother's Diary (2008)
- Chalcot Crescent (2009)
- Kehua! (2010)
- Habits of the House (2012)
- Long Live the King (2013)
- The New Countess (2013)
- Mischief (2015)
- Before the War (2016)
Criticism and reviews
- Guinness, Molly (12 September 2009). "Family album". The Spectator. 311 (9446): 37–38. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
- "REVIEW : Fay Weldon - Chalcot Crescent". Upcoming4.me. 5 April 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
- (By whom?)
- Steward, By Ian (2009-11-09). "'Hum of lesbianism' at girls' school". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
- Emine Saner "'I'm the only feminist there is – the others are all out of step'", The Guardian, 22 August 2009
- Jeffries, Stuart (12 September 2006). "Fay Weldon who has found God after 70 years as atheist talks to Stuart Jeffries". The Guardian.
- Elizabeth Grice "Fay Weldon: 'Dying? I don't want to do that again'", Daily Telegraph, 12 March 2009
- "Fay Weldon: Rape isn't the worst thing that can happen ", BBC News, 30 June 1998.
- "Somerset can boast a whole host of literary connections". Wells Journal. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
- "Berlinale: 1996 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
- Moss, Stephen (18 September 2001). "Is the Booker fixed?". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 18 September 2001.
- Fay Weldon, "Converted by St Paul", in Caroline Chartres (ed.), Why I Am Atill an Anglican, Continuum, 2006, p. 134.
- "Weldon and Hensher head to Bath Spa". The Bookseller. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Fay Weldon|
- Fay Weldon’s official website.
- Interview by Rosemary Goring, "Fay Weldon on her 30th novel", Herald Scotland, 20 July 2012.
- Hester Lacey, "The Inventory: Fay Weldon", Financial Times, 27 July 2012.
- Stuart Jeffries, "Lie back and think of Jesus", The Guardian, 5 September 2006. Interview and review of What Makes Women Happy. Weldon describes her near-death experience and spiritual journey from atheism to belief in God.
- Fay Weldon, "My left knee", Saga Magazine, 10 October 2011. Weldon writes candidly about having her knee replaced at 80, and her fears prior to the operation.