cover image Before the War

Before the War

Fay Weldon. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-12123-3

“Vivien is single, large, ungainly, five foot eleven inches tall and twenty years old.” An intelligent, ambitious illustrator and the only child of Sir Jeremy Ripple, head of a publishing house in 1920s London, Vivien flaunts convention—and conventional notions of beauty—and relies on her mind to fulfill her life and goals. Sherwyn Sexton, a short and egotistical editor at her father’s publishing company, accepts her proposal of marriage with visions of vast sums of money and a mistress or two, but little does he know that a scheme to rise the corporate ladder by marrying the boss’s homely daughter will be more complicated than it seems. After a chance encounter in a stable with what Vivien claims to be the Angel Gabriel, layers of façade and family courtesy fall by the wayside. Featuring a cast of oddball characters and astute observations about courtship, family, and what it means to be human, Weldon’s (Mischief) novel crackles with erudite writing evocative of the time period. This is a complex character study filled with wit and wisdom about family, society, and the restrictions both can place on women. (Mar.)