cover image Leader of the Band

Leader of the Band

Fay Weldon. Viking Books, $18.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82440-3

In prose as lively and runaway as her heroine, Weldon ( The Hearts and Minds of Men ) weighs love and lust against the impulse to have children. ``Starlady Sandra'' is a popular TV astronomer, famous for discovering the new planet, Athena. At 42, childless, and married to a conventional barrister, Sandra runs off with Mad Jack, trumpet-playing hero of the title, after a single, tempestuous sexual encounter. On a gig in France, Sandra and Jack spend every spare moment in bed--or any approximation--continually ``remaking the universe.'' But over the buzz of sexual gratification, Sandra hears the beat of her biological clock, and reconsiders her origins--her mother is institutionalized for insanity while her father, a Nazi doctor, was tried at Nuremberg and executed for his experiments--and her related decision not to procreate. The novel, to which three short stories written by Sandra are appended, is, like its protagonist, a little scattered, but is vintage Weldon nonetheless--a wickedly delightful explication of those female truths she bares so well. (June)