Fay Weldon’s newest novel is an uproariously funny and subversively serious evocation of that ever-enticing pipe dream: If I ran the world, this is how it would be.
Why not introduce a few radical notions to a world still reeling from the effects of conventional leadership? Extreme inflation is challenging the meaning of money; religious fervour is obscuring the language of God and the Devil; the education and health systems are in shambles; men and women vie in a free-for-all for survival. For years, Fay Weldon boldly, irreverently, has shone her flashlight on the threadbare morals of modern life. In DARCY’S UTOPIA, she creates a woman determined to rip apart the old order and start afresh.
Of marginal genealogy (but then Maggie Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter), and with looks that play better than they should, Eleanor Darcy ends up married married to a formidable university chancellor, the economist to whom the Prime Minister listens. And Eleanor is the serpent, or angel, who whispers utopian visions in Julian Darcy’s ear.
We meet Eleanor when her husband is in jail for imperilling the financial structure of the nation. Two journalists, Hugo Vansitart and Valerie Jones, have been promised exclusive interviews with her – though they seem more preoccupied with each other than with their elusive subject. Holing up in Holiday Inn, Valerie and Hugo venture from their love nest only to interview Eleanor. Hugo is looking for truth and pragmatism in Eleanor’s vision; Valerie is in quest of the woman’s angle.
As Eleanor Darcy emerges, so does her remarkable vision – complete with shockingly sensible ideas about child-rearing, abortion, education, integration, fundamentalism, economics – and, of course, a new twist on that old story of the sexes.