Zenana Book Club

Fay Weldon

Fay Weldon

Fay Weldon was born in Worcester, England in 1931 (or 1933). Her father was a doctor and her mother was a writer of commercial fiction under the pen name "Pearl Bellairs." Her parents divorced when she was five, after which her family moved to New Zealand. She lived with her mother, sister and grandmother until she started college and, as a result, grew up believing "the world was peopled by females.

She returned to England with her mother and studied economics and psychology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Her actual christened name was "Franklin Birkinshaw" (something to do with her mother's interest in numerology) which she feels contributed to her being accepted at St. Andrews and permitted to study economics: the school assumed she was a male student applicant.

In her early twenties she was briefly married to a man more than twenty years her senior. It is not clear whether she had her first son during this marriage or earlier.

Raising her son as a single mother, she looks back on her twenties as times fraught with "odd jobs and hard times." She worked on the problem page of the Daily Mirror and then as a copywriter for the Foreign Office. She then embarked on an extremely successful career as an advertising copywriter becoming famous for her slogan 'Go to work on an egg'.

"Advertising was the only thing I could do in order to earn a decent enough living. . . I did it for about eight years."

She married Roy Weldon in 1962 and had three more sons. She then went through a mid-life crisis: "I was thirty, inadequate and depressed and ignorant, and knew it." She went through psychoanalysis, which gave her the self-knowledge and courage to give up advertising and start writing. Her first novel, The Fat Woman's Joke, was published in 1967, but by then she had already written some fifty plays for radio, stage, or television, the most well-known being Upstairs, Downstairs and her adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

For the next 30 years she built a wonderfully successful career, publishing over 20 novels, collections of short stories, television movies, newspaper and magazine articles and becoming a well-known face and voice on the BBC. She and Ron divided their time between bucolic splendour in Somerset and a flat in London.

However, he appears to have been very much like the philandering husbands in her books because, like the plot of one of her novels (Affliction), he left her, refused to speak to her for 2 years and went off with his new-age therapist who had convinced him they were astrologically compatible. The day after their divorce came through in June 1994, Ron dropped dead of a stroke.

Fay subsequently married Nick Fox, a poet 15 years her junior, and her writing and career continue to flourish. They live in Hamptead, London.

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