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The Stepmother's Diary - Fay Weldon

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Fay Weldon / Edition: First Edition / Hardcover / 265 Pages / Book is published 2008-09-04 by Quercus Publishing Plc

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      07.06.2010 11:33
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      A story in the point of view of a young stepmother

      I was given this book as a gift and it's not really the kind of book I would normally pick when going to a library or bookshop. But I couldn't really not read it as it was a present, so away I went.

      For those of you who don't know her (including me), Fay Weldon is an English writer who has been writing novels and TV dramas since the 1960s. Her stories are generally female/feminist focused, although they are intelligent reads rather than typical chick lit books.

      The main character of this novel is Sappho (real name Saffron), a young writer who has become famous for writing plays and TV scripts, and she is the Stepmother in question.

      The story begins with Sappho turning up at her mother Emily's home unexpectedly (she appears to have left her husband), and dumps a Waitrose carrier bag which contains her diary written on various manuscripts spanning her life, and tells her mother she will return. Emily being Emily (and a psychiatrist) she is compelled to read the diaries, especially as she wants to know what has caused her daughter's current situation.

      The book's format is as diary entries rather than chapters, and after each interval in Sappho's diary entries, we get Emily's reaction to what Sappho has just written about, which is usually a shocked response. Sappho writes very honestly and openly, and sometimes, in true writer form, writes about her experiences as if it is in the third person. We find out about all the events in Sappho's life which lead up to the present where she has left home and distressfully dumped her diaries and possessions with her mother.

      The history behind Sappho's character is that she started her career as an au pair / assistant for Isolde Garner and her husband Gavin, who are both writers. Isolde and Gavin have two young children, Isobel and Arthur, whom Sappho helped look after. Due to an illness, Isolde passes away, and Sappho is distraught (as she idolises Isolde) and ends up leaving her job and the family. Sappho becomes very rich for writing plays, and she takes over her family home, Apple Lee, from her mother and has an efficient assistant called Laura who helps her organise her life and career. Eventually fate takes Sappho in the direction of Gavin, Isolde's widower, and she ends up marrying him.

      Sappho's mother Emily is a psychiatrist and a 'Freudian' and her boyfriend Barnaby is a 'Jungian' (obviously they're incompatible, that's her excuse anyway), and there is a lot of psychological analysis of what is happening in Sappho's life. Throughout the book, we also learn a fair amount about Emily, her history with Sappho's father and the fact she is quite independent and hard to tie down (and argue with), much to the chagrin of her suffering boyfriend Barnaby.

      I wouldn't say this book is typical chic-lit light reading, due to the in-depth psycho-analysis which occurs throughout the book, but it's definitely an interesting story. I'll admit, I didn't overly enjoy it until I was about halfway through and things started to get juicy and I was dying to find out what had happened to Sappho and also her trials of being a Stepmother. The characters are very believable and you can understand the personalities of all the different people in the story, and want to know all about them.

      I won't say much more on this book as I don't want to give too much of the plot or ending away, but I hope that has given you enough tips to know what to expect should you read this book! I enjoyed it, and it's definitely a book for the intelligent female reader.

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