This contemporary “subversion” of the traditional Wicked Stepmother fairytale comes highly recommended for holiday reading. The plot revolves around “Sappho”, in her early thirties, who has finally married “Darren”, a widower with two children. She tries very hard to construct a happy family life but from the onset her conniving, undermining stepdaughter, “Isobel”, casts her in the role of the wicked stepmother. The disintegration of Sappho’s hard-won family life, and other alarming secrets, are revealed through her diary entries and via the acerbic, witty and profound comments of Sappho’s mother, a Freudian psychoanalyst.
This is a feisty, funny, quick-to-read novel, convincing in concept and presentation, thought-provoking and true to life, and peopled with a cast of quirky, often eccentric, but enjoyable characters.
Fay Weldon’s fiction is often about issues of feminism. She often portrays contemporary women who find themselves trapped in oppressive situations caused by the patriarchal structure of British society – as in the case of “Sappho”. She has published more than forty novels since 1967, and her latest is Mischief (2015).