In Weldon's fictional universe, a character's worst fears are often not the half of it: the horrific reality of the situations in which her protagonists find themselves often go beyond anything they could have imagined. This is certainly true of Alexandra Ludd, a successful stage actress who is performing in Ibsen's A Doll's House when her husband, Ned, a theater critic, dies in their country house. Alexandra takes a leave of absence from the London production, only to find that her friends in the country all seem to be engaged in some kind of cover-up regarding the circumstances of Ned's death. It gradually becomes clear to Alexandra that her husband lived a very different and more promiscuous life than she'd ever suspected. As always, Weldon's fast-paced black comedy is as compulsively readable as it is unpleasant, but Alexandra's utter failure to have perceived any hint of her husband's real nature makes her remarkably unobservant, and her treatment of their son, Sascha, makes her seem outright cold-blooded, while those around her are malicious and spiteful to the point of sadism. The plot, which essentially adheres to Murphy's law with only a couple of unpredictable detours, lacks the cleverness or complexity to be found in such previous Weldon books about women scorned as The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil and Trouble. But even average Weldon is full of delights, and admirers of her witty malevolence will find much here to enjoy loathing. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996 Release date: 06/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
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