Fay Weldon has died aged 91.
‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’ novelist’s passing was confirmed in a family statement released on Wednesday (04.01.23), which said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Fay Weldon (CBE), author, essayist and playwright.
“She died peacefully this morning 4th January 2023.”
Fay is credited with using her 30-plus books – including ‘Splitting’ and the Booker prize-shortlisted ‘Praxis’ – to chart the ups and downs of British life.
Her sharp dialogue and wit was honed in her work for stage and television, with her TV credits including ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and a BBC adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Writer Jenny Colgan led tributes to the literary veteran, tweeting she was “FORMIDABLE and FIERCE and WONDERFUL and very nice to me and SPLENDID”.
Born in Worcestershire in 1931, Fay was raised in New Zealand where her dad worked as a doctor, before she returned to the UK at the end of World War Two with her mum.
She studied at St Andrews university before becoming pregnant and marrying Ronald Bateman, who was 25 years older than her, and who she said had no interest in sex and urged her to work as a hostess in a Soho nightclub.
She split with Ronald and worked as a copywriter before she married the jazz trumpeter Ronald Weldon and saw her writing work take off.
Her sixth novel ‘Praxis’ told of a woman who played the roles of a prostitute, wife, mother, copywriter and feminist campaigner – who has an affair and commits incest and infanticide.
Her most famous work, ‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’, published in 1983, told of a housewife called Ruth Patchett who turns her world upside down after she finds out her husband is leaving.
It was adapted by the BBC in 1986, and a Hollywood version starring Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr was released three years later.
Mum-of-four Fay was last year reportedly granted a divorce from her third husband Nick Fox, whom she accused of “coercive control and financial mismanagement” according to the Daily Mail.
The publication said the split was finalised when Fay was living at a nursing home, where she was said to have lost the ability to talk.
Former bookseller Nick, who is in his 70s, became her manager after their marriage in 1994 and is understood to be bewildered and saddened by the break-up.
He told the Mail at the time of its report about their divorce being signed off: “People can get very strange when they get old — they can turn on the person closest to them.
“She’s no longer the person I knew for 40 years.”
Fay’s first marriage to teacher Ronald last only two years, while her second to Ronald, with whom she shared three sons, lasted three decades.
He left her for his “astrological therapist”, and died from a heart attack eight hours before their divorce was finalised.