The Fat Woman's Joke, Fay Weldon


The titular fat woman, Esther, who has left her husband after they embark on a diet together, is now hell-bent on eating anything she pleases, regardless of the toll this takes on her thighs. Not so much a person who jokes as one who sneers, Esther lays it out for her friend Phyllis, still preening and striving to please others with her appearance:

I suppose you really do believe that your happiness is consequent upon your size? That an inch or two one way or the other would make you truly loved? Equating prettiness with sexuality, and sexuality with happiness? It is a very debased view of femininity you take .... It would be excusable in a sixteen year old---if my nose was a different shape, if my bosom was larger, if my freckles were gone, then the whole world would be different. But in a woman of your age it is vulgar.

Largely cynical, this book is still an interesting case study of someone trying to break away from the conventions of her coterie. But don't expect a cheery ending (or beginning, or middle): these are the kinds of people who observe, "It is the memory of past happiness that makes the present so intolerable. Better never to be happy at all.” Is it?