Year of birth: 1931
Year of death: -
Title of the book: The fat woman's joke
Number of pages: 143
Publishing house: Coronet Books
The story is set in England, most things happen inside and not outside. Most of the story plays in Esther's house, which is small, cold and mess. There is also Susan's house in Hampstead where also a large part of the story takes place.
Esther: The main character of the book is Esther, she has left her husband, because her child has grown up, and she feels she has become unnecessary. She has a weight problem and has no intention to lose weight. She has the feeling her and her husband don't fit together as well as they used to.
Phyllis: Is a friend of Esther, she's very thin, beautiful and stupid. She believes that Esther and her husband, Alan, should get back together. Also she doesn't understand why Esther left and feels sorry for her son, Peter, that his mother has left. Her husband Gerry has the habit of constantly cheating on his wife, but Phyllis doesn't mind and believes that he just can't resist it, but that isn't his fault. Gerry was married before and still sometimes visites his ex, Phyillis still refers to his ex-wife as his wife, because she sees his ex-wife more as Gerry's wife than herself. She sleeps with Alan because she thinks that Ester slept with Gerry, but afterwards she regrets it.
Susan: When Alan and Esther go on a diet, Alan starts feeling young again and has an affair with his temporary secretary Susan. Susan fancies Alan not because of his looks, or because he's great in bed, but because he has written a book and Susan likes artistic men. Because she is an artist too, she paints. She also has another boyfriend, William, who is also married, and is a poet, him and Susan have had quite a long affair, but now that his wife is pregnant he goes back to her. He doesn't want Susan anymore. Susan doesn't mind that Alan is married, she believes that love should be a free enterprise, whoever is fancied most wins. It is not about faith and trust, but simply about who can offer the best services.
Alan has been married to Esther for a very long time, he had never taught Esther would leave him. When he started writing the book he didn't do it because he wanted to write a book, but because he wanted Esther to ask him what he was doing. When she didn't, and just left him alone, it didn't take very long until he had finished the book. Alan does love Esther but he isn't as attracted to her as he used to be.
Brenda is Susan's friend, Brenda thought that Susan lived a wild, fascinating, exciting life. Susan thought she was prettier than Brenda, which Brenda excepted even tough it wasn't true. Susan always painted portraits of Brenda, she hoped that one day Susan would paint a flattering portrait of her, but Susan never did. When Brenda and Susan go into a bar, there is an Asian man sitting at another table, he doesn't speak, but nevertheless Brenda sleeps with him. After having done this she feels great, until Susan explains it really isn't, but the man returns and Brenda sleeps with him again. Brenda thinks that he is the perfect guy, because he doesn't say anything.
Peter is Esther's son, he is married with a wife that doesn't mind when he cheats on her, she's probably a lot like Phyllis. Peter sleeps with Susan. At the end of the book, they are in bed together and she tells him about Alan and William.
Gerry is married to Phyllis, he isn't faithful to Phyllis and sleeps with almost every woman he knows. It is uncertain if he also slept with Esther, but she denies it. It is known that Gerry has always liked Esther a lot.
Juliet is Esther's charwoman but she doesn't do a very good job. She doesn't clean the floor right and she doesn't get along with Esther, eventually Esther tells Juliet to leave, but afterwards she misses Juliet to talk to.
The theme of the book is marriage and in a wider sense love affairs.
I think that the title is about the fact that she doesn't fight to get her husband back, and she also doesn't have to allow his behaviour, like Phyllis. Actually she doesn't have to do anything but go away and do what she wants to do. Later it becomes clear that she has done something like this before, than she left Alan for other men, now she leaves him for food.
My own title:
''Leaving&staying'', because that is what the book is about, sometimes people stay and sometimes they leave. Phyllis stays with Gerry, Esther leaves Alan and William leaves Susan.
My own opinion:
I really enjoyed the book, I thought it was very funny and not old fashioned. There were two conversations in which they talked about somebody possibly being a lesbian, and when I saw that the book had been written in 1967 I thought that was quite early for something like that, especially because it didn't sound as if that was a bad thing. Also the book wasn't boring, because even tough the story was moving quite slow, the humour kept it lively. You could say the book is a bit one-sided because it is mostly written out of a female-perspective, but I don't think that that is wrong, after all it is a comedy, and comedy's are just one-sided. Besides that it is a satire, the book doesn't want me to start hating men, it has no bad intentions. If this book would have been written from both sides, it probably wouldn't have been very funny, but a lot more serious.
This book has a lot in common with She-devil, the movie, because it is also about a woman who leaves her husband, one of the differences however is that she doesn't do anything to get back at Susan. Another difference is that in She-devil the main character is much more trying to get revenge. In this book the main character is much more thinking about herself and not about how she can hurt him the most. Of course it could be true that by leaving him, she does hurt him the most, but I doubt if that is true. Also in She-Devil there is another woman involved, and she is thin, just like in this book. I believe that She-Devil is just another version of this book, I think that what Fay Weldon has done should happen more often, in books the story always goes a certain way, but what if something else would have happened? What if Alan wouldn't have wanted Esther back, would she gone and have taken revenge anyway? Would she have married someone else? I can understand that writers don't because Alan did want Esther back, and there is no point in assuming that he didn't.
Of course people wouldn't buy a book that is the same but than with a different end, why would they, they already know the ending, so for a writer to use the situation again the plot must be changed a little.
But very often it does happen that another book of the same writer is about the same subject as the other one, which is understanding because that is the subject they are interested in.
When Esther and her husband go on a diet, everything changes. Alan feels young again and begins an affair with his secretary, Susan, who only fancies him because he is a writer. Esther on the contrary finds out her life is quite useless, the only thing she does all day is cook and eat, but since she is on a diet, there is no point in cooking, and she is forbidden to eat. Eventually she leaves Alan, and tells Phyllis her story, this is also when the story is told, afterwards. When she tells her story, she implies to Phyllis she slept with Gerry, Phyllis' husband, who cheats on her all the time. To get revenge Phyllis sleeps with Alan, but afterwards she regrets it. Meanwhile Susan has her own frustrations, William, her former lover, has left her to go to his wife, and also Alan doesn't want a permanent relationship with her. Eventually Susan goes to Peter, Esther son, whom she tells her story.
At the end of the story Esther tells that the real reason she left Alan is because she felt useless, Peter had grown up, there was no use for her anymore. On the last day of the diet, Alan and Esther have a horrible fight and Alan tries to strangle Esther because she tried to eat a biscuit and wouldn't let him leave and she called him a impotent balding old man. The next day Alan comes back, and asks Esther to come with him and go home. Esther goes with him.
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