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Publisher's Summary

In Fay Weldon's 1983 classic, The Life and Loves of a She Devil, women fought men for power and won. In 2017, men take the ultimate step to get their power back. Ruth Patchett, the original 'She Devil,' is now 84 and keen to retire. But who can take up her mantle?

Enter Ruth's grandson Tyler, a confident 20-something: beautiful, resentful and unemployed. Tyler won't be satisfied until he can transition into the ultimate symbol of power and status. A woman.

©2017 Fay Weldon (P)2017 W.F. Howes Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Elegantly written, sharply perceptive and fantastically good fun." ( Daily Mail)
"She's a queen of words. A tribal elder." (Caitlin Moran)
"One of our very best writers." ( The Sunday Times)

What listeners say about Death of a She Devil

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A problematic sequel

I loved the "Life and Loves of a She Devil" miniseries when I first saw it on the Arts & Entertainment network as a teen. I eventually tracked down and read the book, one of my early lessons in how a filmed story is a pared down version of an original novel.

I didn't know about "Death of a She Devil" until the past fortnight. The narrator is very good with voices: in most cases, I could tell that there'd been a character change.

The story picks up with Ruth at 84, head of an organization for gender parity, having helped overseen Vista Rose into an international service for working women that had blossomed internationally into the age of the internet. Ruth's plastic surgeries have started to reverse, the weight is starting to come back, and her ailing husband - Bobo - will not let her or anyone else forget it.

Ruth is considering a successor for her empire, and young Valerie is jonesing for it so obviously that it's annoying. But what other choice is there? None of the children she abandoned, or even her grandchildren, will talk to her.

One of the big themes of the book is whether the ends justify the means. I'm still uncertain. If one considers all the ends - including the fact that Ruth's children won't speak to her gain, that she lives with chronic pain due to her surgeries, and the fact that a celebrated and powerful Dame of the British Empire - then ... yes, I guess? I'm uncertain of how Ruth could've accomplished what she did without what she set in motion 40 years previously, or even if she would've thought about it had Bobo not made the decisions he did.

Everyone in the novel stands fairly resolutely by the decisions they've previously made, or related ones that they're currently making: they've come even to accept the judgements others have made about them while still defending their own actions. Whether or not the ends can be said by a more objective observer to justify the means, the characters in question seem determined that they couldn't have - and wouldn't have - chosen any differently, even given what befell them.

One claim made repeatedly by Ruth through the book is that younger women of today didn't seem to understand how bad things were for women of past generations, and that the concepts of reproducing, partnering intimately or creatively with men, etc. could lead only to ruin. I wonder who Weldon was hanging out with around the time she wrote this book? And who does she think has been holding the line against regressing to a point where women had fewer rights? Or maybe I should just hand wave that into being about the women in the She-Devil-verse?

A theme that was lightly sprinkled in a disguised way throughout the 3/4ths of the novel, and then came roaring up in the last fourth, was an old transphobic argument men in dresses infiltrating protected women's spaces in the hopes of destroying them. I've never actually heard of this happening, but it seems to remain a popular accusation amongst FARTs.

I realize that between Ruth's age and the suggestion that someone may be messing with her, Ruth's accusations are called into question; but they're also examined at length in the novel so I'm unsure of what to make of this. However, given Ruth's previous decisions and the depths of her hatred, the fact that she'd continue to lean towards the Dark Side isn't that much of a shock.

With that said, I'm knocking off one star for having to slog through transphobic drivel, and another for suggesting that - in general - only the women of Ruth's generation know what's at stake.

However, one for a gripping story that kept me interested, one for a great narrator, and one for simply revisiting the story of the She Devil.

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  • Kirstine
  • 12-07-17

Not a patch on the original she devil novel

This book makes no sense if you haven’t read the original Life and Loves of a She Devil and/or seen the TV series starring Julie T. Wallace, Patricia Hodge and Dennis Waterman. Even though I’d done both I found the present book confusing as numerous children, step-children and grandchildren of the main characters are introduced and the narrative jumps about with details of their lives mixed up with visits by Mary Fisher’s ghost, scenes with a very elderly Bobo and the ruminations of the She Devil in her 90th decade, plus the thoughts of other peripheral characters.

There is very little actual story just a miss-mash of words that are often more like a stream of consciousness that allowed the author to go off on self-indulgent verbal riffs of foul-mouthed venom or regurgitate out-of date feminist paranoia.

Half-way through I was getting so bored with the book I started skipping chapters. I would have returned the book had I not got it free in a 2 for 1 offer.

I have enjoyed many of the author’s books so was disappointed that she has produced this tedious book.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 02-21-21

A terrible read

I struggled to finish this book. Not a book for me. I didn't like the layout or how it was written, not one of her best books I must say.