Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil--Fay Weldon

I first read this book when I was in seventh grade, and loved it so much that I kept a notebook full of quotes from the book (such things as "I sing a hymn to the death of love and the end of pain"). When I reread it, I found it to be a lot more inherently disturbing than I had remembered. Ruth is a large, ugly housewife whose husband, Bobbo, feels justified in having affairs with more attractive, daintier women. He feels that Ruth should be happy that he married her and gave her children and a house to tend to. Ruth goes along with the status quo until Bobbo moves in with his latest mistress, Mary Fisher, a blonde, dainty penner of romance novels--the sterotypical ideal of the childless woman. Before he leaves he calls Ruth a "she-devil", and from that point on Ruth systematically reforms herself, sheds her old life, wreaks havoc upon the lives of Mary Fisher and Bobbo and ultimately, in the end, becomes Mary Fisher, with Bobbo as her pathetic, doting slave.

This book deals with themes such as the importance of image upon women in our society, gender roles, cosmetic surgery, and most of all the struggle between the powerful and powerless. In reversing roles with her husband, Ruth becomes the powerful and he the oppressed. However, while Ruth appears to have "won", in actuality there are no winners here. Ruth goes through years of difficulty and pain, and millions of dollars, only to prove that she is able to--with the help of some major cosmetic surgery--come out on top. But is she happy now that she has become the sterotype? I don't see how a woman of her intellect and resourcefulness could be.

This is a provacative and enjoyable, oftentimes humorous read. I highly recommend it.

Challenges: Read-it-again

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