Flamingo, €20.54

This book of short stories by Fay Weldon will entertain readers of all backgrounds and ages. The collection is divided into five different sections, each containing four stories with a connecting theme.

The first set, 'Things That Go Bump in the Night', tells tales of women who at first seem to be ordinary middle-aged housewives. In 'The Medium is the Message' the successful Oriole is the breadwinner for a pair of twin brothers and an au-pair/refugee who has been hired to care for Oriole's as yet un-conceived baby. Oriole works hard and the brothers and au pair reap the rewards and enjoy an easy life. That is until Oriole's recently deceased grandmother turns up, in the form of a ghost, and begins to smash her precious eighteenth-century Meissen cups. Gradually Oriole understands that her grandmother is trying to tell her to leave the lazy brothers and find a good man.

'The Devious and Delectable' are mainly stories about adultery, in 'A Summer Person' Weldon explores what happens when a pretty young girl sets her sights on a wealthy older man. Matters are further complicated by the fact that he is the father of the girl's best friend. The moral of the story? Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

'Making Do' mostly deals with forty-something rich successful women, who are trapped in unhappy lives, often without knowing it. Then an event of some sort happens and their lives are 'ruined', but in fact they regain their sanity and peace. Within this third set are several stories which highlight the vulnerability of women who have no longer got their finger on the pulse. But they triumph in the end as Weldon confirms that it is better to be a good person than a heartless snob.

'Cold, Wet Nose', contained in the fourth set - 'Making Good', tells the story of a power woman who holds a black-tie party in her fashionable London apartment. Everything goes splendidly until an unexpected guest turns up, in the form of a stray dog. Finally the hostess remembers the life she left behind and begins to long for the things she threw away in her hunt for success.

The final set, 'How We Live Now', contains stories about young career women who try to control their lives and plan everything to the finest detail. But they can't escape their destiny and will eventually succumb to the pain and pleasures of ordinary life. 'Queen Gertrude plc - a radio play' is set in the ultimate trendy London office. It is about a powerful woman who has become so tough and mean that she no longer has a hold on reality. Her personal secretary is in love with her and is loyal to the core, but then his wild daughter appears, with her new baby, their lives merge and all hell breaks loose.

This collection is easy to read, light and entertaining, with plenty of laugh out loud moments, but there is also a message hidden beneath the text. The characters and their plights are very real, they live in the modern world, they battle with money, power, success, the opposite sex and family pressures. Weldon's humour shines through the narrative, her sense of the bizarre, the ridiculous and the extraordinary beneath the ordinary make these stories an engaging read.

Deirdre Leahy