“I write less implicitly, more explicitly, if you understand the distinction, but not so well,” writes the main character Frances, an eighty-something novelist, on how her writing style has changed over the years. If Chalcot Crescent is anything to go by the same could be said of Weldon herself.
The plot premise is vintage Weldon, deliciously quirky and surreal. Frances is Fay’s fictional younger sister, inhabiting a dystopian parallel not-too-distant future. Throw in an elderly, unreliable narrator – Francis admits to “a bout of trouble with what is truth and what is fiction, what is true memory and what is false” – and the set-up seems to promise much.
But the execution doesn’t entirely satisfy. Weldon at her best (The Life and Loves of a She Devil, The Cloning of Joanna May) is witty and cynical. Chalcot Crescent is long on cynicism, short on wit – a self-indulgent rant, in other words. OK, OK, that’s harsh. Let’s just say she’s written better books and leave it at that.
I never thought I’d say it about a Fay Weldon novel but…
* Not for me