A Matter of DNA


After the Peace is Fay Weldon’s 48th book or her 53rd book, depending on whether you like Wikipedia or the “Also by Fay Weldon” page in the book (published by Head of Zeus). Sources agree that The Fat Woman’s Joke was her first novel, published in 1967 (it holds up very well), and she hasn’t set down her pen since then. The first sentence in After the Peace—the last of five volumes about the Dilberne Dynasty: “A whole lot of people were involved in Rozzie’s conception.” Xandra, the birth mother and a full-time nurse, age 39. Clive, the legal father, an occasional actor and singer, age 36. The ancient family friend Gwinny, who lives in the adjoining duplex unit and relies on the pricking of her thumbs to suss out lies, shadows and weird coincidences. It is she who narrates the story. Well, most of it. And, in the turkey baster, the recently defrosted sperm of a young Viscount—which none of them knew at the time (maybe). In fact it was Gwinny who transferred the sperm to Xandra, while Clive, who had been found to have non-viable sperm, quoted passages from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. If you believe Gwinny, that is. She doesn’t advise it: writing in third person, she warns the reader that Gwinny is “a bit of a nutter.” All of this by page 2! The reader will be up reading all night. Weldon is a magician. On she goes, through backstory, front-story, fantasy, conjecture and seat-of-the-pants psychology, amid a storm of subheads—Trio Con Brio; Suspicion Dawns; The Moving Finger; Me, Me, Me #MeToo—amid references to Ritalin, Leadbelly, snowflake millennials, Mercury in retrograde, Chernobyl, Viagra, reincarnation. And bits from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which runs right through the works, the reader being the wedding guest. Whew!

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Mary Schendlinger is a writer, editor, retired teacher of publishing and, as Eve Corbel, a maker of comics. She was Senior Editor of Geist for twenty-five years. She lives in Vancouver.


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