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Book Review

Auto Da Fay: a memoir by Fay Weldon

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Flamingo HB, €29

This story begins in June, 1931, three months before the birth of Franklin Birkinshaw, aka Fay Weldon, when an earthquake hits the town of Napier, New Zealand. Heavily pregnant Margaret Birkinshaw and her two-year-old daughter Jane run from their home to safety. That night, along with hundreds of others, they sleep in tents that have been erected for the new homeless.

Weldon began life as she was to continue, moving from place to place, adapting quickly in order to survive. She spent most of her childhood in New Zealand. During school time she lived with her mother, her maternal grandmother and her sister Jane. Her parents divorced and her father went to live at the other end of New Zealand where he remarried and started a new family. Weldon spent most of her summers with her father and her sister and she has mostly happy memories of this time. Then her mother decided to move back to England.

It was a difficult time to be in London, World War II had just ended and the country was in ruin, jobs were scarce and accommodation was inadequate. Weldon spent her teenage years in London, studied hard and was accepted into university in Scotland. Life was good for a time and things seemed to be working out. After graduation she returned to London and enjoyed the swinging sixties. She fell in and out of love and discovered she was pregnant, but did not want to marry her boyfriend, so moved away from London and tried to start again.

The responsibility of motherhood was a heavy weight to bear alone so she married a man twenty years her senior. The marriage was a disaster and had a very negative affect on her life. So one night she packed her bags took her child and ran back to London. True to form she found somewhere to live, a job and once again picked up the pieces and reinvented herself.

Fans of Fay Weldon's writing will enjoy this book tremendously and new readers will be compelled to pick up one of her novels or plays. This tome ends when Weldon is thirty-two, has a successful career as a copywriter and is about to give birth to her second son. I look forward to the next instalment.

Deirdre Leahy

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