From Publishers Weekly
After many novels, screenplays, essays and an acclaimed memoir, Auto da Fay, Weldon now adds "reality novel" to her repertoire. Presented as a continuation of Auto da Fay, the book is a curious hybrid: something Weldon calls "novel and autobiography side by side, leaping from one to the other, but related." Its fictional protagonist is 44-year-old Trisha, who won the lottery, spent her fortune and is now relegated to niggling London poverty. Things take a turn for the worse when her soul exchanges bodies with that of young, handsome Peter. Now Doralee, Peter's life partner, is left to sort out an impossible situation, bemoaning the fact that there's no support group "for the transfer of your partner's being into someone else's shoddy, badly-looked-after body." These episodes are vintage Weldon: satirical, hyper-realistic and punctuated by biting truths. The autobiographical sections, interleaved with Trisha's story, are occasionally retreads of material from the previous volume, but mostly recount Weldon's further adventures as she juggles family and career. Weldon reveals the reality of her life behind her fiction, proving that "nearly everything you write about, you realize one day, has its roots somewhere in the past." Consider this the ultimate version of life and art imitating one another.
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Things are never simple with Weldon. She created a firestorm with her last novel, The Bulgari Connection (2001), for accepting money from Bulgari in return for product placement. Now, after a fashion, she offers a follow-up to her wonderfully engaging memoir, Auto da Fay [BKL Mr 15 03]. In alternate chapters, she weaves together a novella about gender switching with autobiographical passages mainly concerned with the dissolution of her 30-year marriage. Some readers may wish for a more straight-ahead account of Weldon's marital woes, but perhaps out of boredom with her own life story or perhaps out of a desire to skirt painful personal issues, she has decided to pair her nonchronological reminiscences with a fictional take on gender roles. When Trisha and Peter pass each other on the stairs of a Laundromat, they mysteriously switch souls. Health fanatic Peter suddenly finds himself in the much older body of a dissolute free spirit, while Trisha feels liberated by her new trim form. However, Peter's wife is at first appalled and then intrigued by the many sexual ramifications of the mix-up. Surprisingly enough, this odd hodgepodge of fact and fiction is tremendously fun to read, due, in part, to Weldon's high amusement at her own shortcomings and her continuing ability to confound expectations. Joanne Wilkinson
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