Bestselling author Fay Weldon has died

She was considered a master of irony and provocation. Her novel “The Devil” became a Hollywood hit. Now Fay Weldon has died at the age of 91.

Fay Weldon is dead. The writer passed away peacefully on the morning of January 4, as her family announced “with great sadness” in a statement on Twitter. She was 91 years old. The Brit, who grew up in New Zealand, leaves behind a body of work of more than 30 novels, most of which starred women. She has also written children’s books, screenplays and guest articles for newspapers. At times she also worked as an advertising copywriter.

The idiosyncratic feminist is best known for her 1983 novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, which was published in Great Britain in 1983 and was made into a film in 1989, starring Roseanne Barr and Meryl Streep. The book, Weldon once joked, would probably take her to hell because of the protagonist’s ruthless vendetta against her unfaithful husband.

Meryl Streep (left) and Roseanne Barr starred in the on Fay Weldon's Romas "The she-devil" based movie from 1989.
Meryl Streep (left) and Roseanne Barr starred in the 1989 film based on Fay Weldon’s novel The She-Devil. (Source: IMAGO / United Archives)

But she also said that “women are so used to being ‘good’ that a little naughtiness doesn’t hurt” – burning down houses, giving away your children, jailing your husband and taking his money, inclusive.

A writing family

Fay Weldon was born with a passion for writing. Her mother (pseudonym: Pearl Bellairs) and her partner were writers, as were her grandfather and an uncle. She was born Franklin Birkinshaw on September 22, 1931 in the British county of Worcestershire as a doctor’s daughter. The family relocated to New Zealand soon after. However, after the end of World War II, Weldon returned to Britain with her mother and sister.

After studying psychology and economics, Fay Weldon first worked in England in the late 1950s for the British Foreign Office and the daily newspaper “Daily Mirror”. She then worked as a copywriter at an agency alongside Salman Rushdie. She later made her breakthrough and celebrated success with bestselling novels, radio plays and numerous awards for her TV screenplays.

The coexistence of the sexes

She found inspiration and impetus for writing novels in her own experiences and observations in the daily interaction of the sexes, especially in her own relationship. After an initial failed marriage, Fay Weldon married the painter, musician and antiques dealer Ronald Weldon in 1960. After 30 years and three sons together (from the first marriage Weldon had another son), he eloped with a young hypnotherapist. The author captured her story in a bitterly sarcastic yet unsentimental way in the novel “Marriage Break”.

“With irony and black humour,” wrote the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, “Weldon observes men and women in the battle of the sexes in everyday situations. She releases her characters from their individual tragedy and lends the catastrophes that inevitably strike hilarious features.”

Booker Prize nominee

Her novel “Praxis” (in German: “The Blanket of Happiness”) from 1978 was nominated for the renowned Booker Prize, whose jury Fay Weldon later chaired for a time. Until 2021 she taught creative writing at the University of Bath (Bath Spa University).

In 2001 she was awarded a medal by the British royal family for her services to literature.