Author Fay Weldon, known for works including The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil and Praxis, has died aged 91.
The novelist, playwright and screenwriter’s body of work includes more than 30 novels – as well as short stories and plays written for television, radio and the stage including ITV’s popular drama Upstairs, Downstairs and the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
A family statement said: ‘It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Fay Weldon (CBE), author, essayist and playwright. She died peacefully this morning January 4, 2023.’
The writer previously told her readers in a statement posted on her website that she had been admitted to hospital with a broken bone in her back and then with a stroke.
Author Fay Weldon has died aged 91
Fay Weldon pictured with her son Nick Weldon and grandson Felix Weldon in 1998
A family statement said: ‘It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Fay Weldon (CBE), author, essayist and playwright. She died peacefully this morning January 4, 2023’
Author Jenny Colgan led tributes, describing Weldon as ‘formidable, fierce and wonderful
Author Jenny Colgan led tributes, describing Weldon as ‘formidable, fierce and wonderful’.
Chocolat author Joanne Harris tweeted: ‘RIP Fay Weldon: what a loss, and what a remarkable woman.’
The Rev Richard Coles also revealed he took her Holy Communion as he remembered the late author, writing on Twitter: ‘So sorry to see news of the death of #FayWeldon.
‘I started out as an admirer of her fiction and I ended up taking her Holy Communion. She was amazing. May she rest in peace.’
The novelist, playwright and screenwriter’s body of work includes more than 30 novels including The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil
Born in Britain in September 1931, Weldon was brought up in New Zealand and returned to the UK as a child. She went on to read economics and psychology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and later received an honorary doctorate from the institution in 1990.
Weldon worked briefly for the Foreign Office in London and as a journalist before moving to work as an advertising copywriter.
She left this career to focus on her writing and published her first novel, The Fat Woman’s Joke, in 1967.
Alongside her prolific novel career, she also wrote children’s books, non-fiction books and newspaper articles.
She was also one of the writers on the popular drama series Upstairs, Downstairs which ran from 1971 to 1975, receiving an award from the Writers Guild of America for the show’s first episode.
Much of her fiction explores issues surrounding women’s relationships with men, children, parents and each other, including the novels Down Among The Women (1971) and Female Friends (1975).
Her 1978 novel Praxis was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction and she later chaired the judges’ panel for the prestigious award in 1983.
A post on the Booker Prizes Twitter account said they were ‘saddened’ to hear the news as they recalled how she had ‘delivered one of the most memorable speeches in Booker history’ during her time as a judge for the award.
She published a memoir called Auto Da Fay in 2002 when she was 70.
Weldon worked briefly for the Foreign Office in London and as a journalist before moving to work as an advertising copywriter. She left this career to focus on her writing and published her first novel, The Fat Woman’s Joke, in 1967
Weldon was also a professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University, retiring in 2021
Marjorie Wallace and Fay Weldon at the Serpentine Gallery in 2006
Her most famous work, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, followed Ruth Patchett, a woman who sought revenge after discovering her husband has been having an affair with a novelist. It later became a BBC series starring Miriam Margolyes, Dennis Waterman and Patricia Hodge.
Weldon’s other best-known works included 1989’s The Cloning of Joanna May, which was also adapted for television and again starred Hodge, alongside Brian Cox and Peter Capaldi.
She said she deliberately wrote about women who were often wronged or not featured in the media.
Weldon once wrote: ‘What drove me to feminism 50 years ago was the myth that men were the breadwinners, and women kept house and looked pretty. That myth finally exploded, and I helped to explode it.’
Tributes have poured in for the ‘groundbreaking’ author
Weldon was also a professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University, retiring in 2021.
After spending nine years teaching at the institution she was awarded Emeritus Professor status in recognition of her dedication to the university.
She was made a CBE for her services to literature in the New Year Honours list in 2001.
Her later books included an Edwardian-themed trilogy and a self-help book for aspiring novelists, Why Will No-One Publish My Novel? (2018).
Weldon married for a third time in 1994, to the poet Nick Fox.
The couple became an item when she was 60 and he 45. At the time, the age gap caused a scandal. But they endured for more than 30 years until her passing this week.
Fay previously told the Daily Mail: ‘There’s an age difference between us, but our mothers were born in the same year: 1903. So I was an early baby and Nick a late baby. And, oddly enough, the age difference almost doesn’t seem to be there.’
The couple lived in a rambling 1840s townhouse in north Dorset which was adorned by Fay’s fine art collection.
In her later years, the novelist said she rarely went out ‘because of my legs’, having had two knees replaced.
She remained committed to looking glamorous, however, including having her eyelashes dyed in her late 80s.
‘I wear clothes from 30 years ago — Jean Muir and so on,’ she told the Mail in an interview in 2019.
She hilariously recalled not knowing whether or not she had had a facelift.
Fay said: ‘I was having an eye lift in Hollywood by the person who did all the famous people. Whether they did anything else, I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t a case of: ‘I’m going to have a full facelift.’ When I came home to London, my then-husband said: ‘You look very expensive.’ So I thought that was quite nice.’
Fay packed as much — if not more — into her middle-age and beyond as her youth. She had her fourth son at 47 and published The Life And Loves Of A She Devil, the book that made her famous, at 52.
She didn’t have an easy start as a writer. She had a series of odd jobs, before becoming a top advertising copywriter (coining the phrase: ‘Vodka gets you drunker quicker’), and then moved into TV drama, writing the pilot for Upstairs, Downstairs.
Weldon didn’t have an easy start as a writer. She had a series of odd jobs, before becoming a top advertising copywriter (coining the phrase: ‘Vodka gets you drunker quicker’), and then moved into TV drama, writing the pilot for Upstairs, Downstairs
She published her first novel, The Fat Woman’s Joke, in 1967 ‘which was about the struggle between domesticity and dieting’. She wrote on the stairs while the children were small so that she could keep an eye on them.
Fay once recalled how male writers were furious with her for writing about women’s topics.
She told the Mail: ‘Men would walk out of rooms when I walked in because they were so angry and upset that women were no longer willing to iron men’s shirts.
‘But then money crept in and people began to buy women’s books in rather enormous quantities. And they had to respect them because they were doing all right in the market.’
The Life And Loves Of A She Devil, in which wronged wife Ruth steals her husband’s money and has plastic surgery to look like his mistress, was a case in point. When the TV series adaptation came out in 1986, it shaped the cultural conversation for months.
Her husband Nick once said she would go ‘a bit funny’ if she was not writing something, adding: ‘It’s like an athlete if they’re not training.’
Fay’s husband Nick (pictured together) once said she would go ‘a bit funny’ if she was not writing something, adding: ‘It’s like an athlete if they’re not training’
Fay told the Mail: ‘I never wanted to write. But I think the money is the most important thing. I don’t feel squeamish about money. I was born into the very poor middle-classes, with a single mother. We got scholarships, but I never had any money. Then I had a baby out of wedlock, but one survived.’
For more than 40 years she took HRT (hormone replacement therapy), firmly believing in oestrogen as a source of creativity.
‘These days, I take bioidentical hormones, but I don’t think they’re as good as the ‘hard’ stuff,’ she told the Mail while laughing.
‘I had my last baby at 47 and went on writing on oestrogen. I had to bully doctors to get it.’
Fay, who had a heart condition from a young age, was candid about the idea of death, and previously said one cannot delay ageing indefinitely because you are eventually going to die.
She added: ‘I’m fairly used to dying because I’d go to hospital and they would stop my heart at least once a month and everyone would gather round for the sideshow, to watch you flatline. Eventually, they came up with a solution — I had a cardiac ablation [to stop the abnormal heart rhythm]. But I rather miss the drama.’
Fay had two near-death experiences (one when she was 17; one in 2009).
She recalled: ‘I saw the doors of paradise, which were not pearly, but all sorts of vivid colours, like an Indian temple. But I got to see through to the other side of the gates. And I came back saying: ‘Oh, I see, it’s just the same but different. You pass from one stage to another. It’s the same work and effort . . . but on a different scale.’
Just four years before her death she said she did not worry about her legacy as a writer.
‘I’ve never had time to think about it,’ she said. ‘But I hope I’ve left behind lots of stories that will be useful.’
For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel
hartford car insurance shop car insurance best car insurance quotes best online car insurance get auto insurance quotes auto insurance quotes most affordable car insurance car insurance providers car insurance best deals best insurance quotes get car insurance online best comprehensive car insurance best cheap auto insurance auto policy switching car insurance car insurance quotes auto insurance best affordable car insurance online auto insurance quotes az auto insurance commercial auto insurance instant car insurance buy car insurance online best auto insurance companies best car insurance policy best auto insurance vehicle insurance quotes aaa insurance quote auto and home insurance quotes car insurance search best and cheapest car insurance best price car insurance best vehicle insurance aaa car insurance quote find cheap car insurance new car insurance quote auto insurance companies get car insurance quotes best cheap car insurance car insurance policy online new car insurance policy get car insurance car insurance company best cheap insurance car insurance online quote car insurance finder comprehensive insurance quote car insurance quotes near me get insurance