Your writer, in conjuring this tale of murder, adultery, incest, ghosts, redemption and remorse, takes you first to a daffodil-filled garden in Highgate, North London, where, just outside the kitchen window, something startling shimmers on the very edges of perception. Fluttering and chattering, these are our kehua - a whole multiplying flock of Maori spirits (all will be explained) goaded into wakefulness by the conversation within. Scarlet - a long-legged, skinny young woman of the new world order - has ...
Your writer, in conjuring this tale of murder, adultery, incest, ghosts, redemption and remorse, takes you first to a daffodil-filled garden in Highgate, North London, where, just outside the kitchen window, something startling shimmers on the very edges of perception. Fluttering and chattering, these are our kehua - a whole multiplying flock of Maori spirits (all will be explained) goaded into wakefulness by the conversation within. Scarlet - a long-legged, skinny young woman of the new world order - has announced to Beverley - her aged grandmother - that she intends to leave home and husband for the glamorous actor, Jackson Wright - he of the vampire films. Beverley may be well on her way to her ninth decade, but she's not beyond using this intelligence to stir up a little trouble. Quite how they became attached to a three-year-old white girl is the origin of your writer's tale. Suffice to say that murder is at the root of it all, that Beverley and her female bloodline carry a weighty spiritual burden and that this is the story of how they learn to live with their ghosts, or maybe how their ghosts learn to live with them.
Like the real world, Kehua! is overpopulated and messy, but much funnier.
The consequences of a long-ago murder in New Zealand reverberate all the way to England in Weldon's latest (Habits of the House, 2013, etc.). Kehua are the Maori spirits of the wandering dead, and they seem to have followed Beverley to North London, where she is recuperating from a knee replacement and lending a skeptical ear to granddaughter Scarlet's confidence that she is leaving her husband for a sexy but has-been movie star. "This running away habit can get compulsive," her grandmother warns, and aging Beverley should know; she's done a lot of it since she discovered her mother's bloody corpse on the floor of their New Zealand home, killed by a jealous husband--or was it the lover who might be Beverley's real father? Little is for certain in Weldon's game-playing narrative, which keeps cutting away from the main story to a first-person commentary by the author in the midst of creating it, who thinks the basement where she writes may be haunted. The author's preoccupation with the Victorian-era residents of her house isn't terribly interesting, nor are her confidences about the process of writing fiction. There's quite enough plot already in the complicated lives of Beverley and her restless descendants: daughter Alice, who found religion shortly after giving birth to Cynara, whose knee-jerk feminism and newfound lesbianism embarrass younger sister Scarlet and infuriate Cynara's 16-year-old daughter, Lola, who's a troublemaker all around. You know a writer is having trouble maintaining focus when she opens a chapter with the words, "Let me remind you." Weldon remains a wickedly funny observer of the human comedy, and her portrait of four generations of women unsettled by spirits of whose existence they are unaware (the kehua: remember them?) is intermittently moving. But the late arrival of an unknown son and a second murder merely underscore Weldon's lack of discipline and irritating confidence that every single word she writes is fascinating. Scattershot and self-indulgent.
A novelist, playwright and essayist, Fay Weldon is best known for her novels The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Praxis, and Worst Fears. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Andrews in 1990, and was awarded a CBE from the Queen in 2001. In 2006, Weldon was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University in West London. She lives in Dorset with her husband, the poet Nick Fox.