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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction / memoir


Fay Weldon

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Mantrapped

Title: Mantrapped
Author: Fay Weldon
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004
Length: 268 pages
Availability: Mantrapped - US
Mantrapped - UK

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Our Assessment:

A- : odd approach, but hard to resist

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph . 28/9/2004 Jane Shilling
The Independent . 1/10/2004 Susan Jeffreys
Independent on Sunday A 19/9/2004 Laura Thompson
The NY Times Book Rev. . 30/1/2005 Sarah Churchwell
The Observer A- 19/9/2004 Liz Hoggard
The Spectator . 18/9/2004 Sara Maitland
Sunday Telegraph . 26/9/2004 Claudia FitzHerbert
TLS . 12/11/2004 Alex Clark
The Washington Post B 26/12/2004 Francesca Delbanco

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus

  From the Reviews:
  • "This won't do. There are plenty of ways of dealing with unbearable personal sadness other than writing carelessly about it, and what is rather shocking about this unsavoury mixed salad of fact and fiction is the sense that in her heart, Weldon knows it, but has decided not to care." - Jane Shilling, Daily Telegraph

  • "Popular novels today are full of semi-disguised authorial presence, so why not be upfront about it ? It is a clever device. But it is a good deal more than that: in Mantrapped, the structure is also the subject matter, for Weldon is engaged in a profound debate with this modern urge towards "autobiography"." - Laura Thompson, Independent on Sunday

  • "I was enjoying the book until the point of the soul-swapping metaphor became clear: it's a half-comical, half-Calvinist jeremiad against an entire generation -- mine. (...) Mantrapped is half a very good book." - Sarah Churchwell, The New York Times Book Review

  • "At times it can be tiresome for the reader, as you're forced to leave the narrative of Trisha and Peter for Weldon's digressions. But gradually you stop resisting. And there are fascinating insights. (...) And some of the rants about happiness or morality or cosmetic surgery could do with a bit of editing (she freely admits her style comes close to automatic writing). But when she's on form -- marshalling those elegant, deadly, sentences -- there's simply no touching Weldon as a writer." - Liz Hoggard, The Observer

  • "We seem to have lost the knack of reading the bigger picture from the narrative’s specific particulars. It is a serious cultural loss too, but I am not convinced by Mantrapped that the solution is to insert chunks of soi-disant ‘truth’ into a fiction of flamboyant invention." - Sara Maitland, The Spectator

  • "(A) deranged composite" - Claudia FitzHerbert, Sunday Telegraph

  • "Mantrapped the novella is witty, outlandish and provocative and the latest in a long line of similarly puckish fictions, but it has the additional force supplied by its author's concurrent meditations on the overlap between reality and fantasy." - Alex Clark, Times Literary Supplement

  • "The novel and the autobiography are each delightful in its own way, but combined they somehow amount to less than the sum of their parts. (...) When Weldon stays focused on her narrative, she is as shrewd and penetrating a literary observer as one could hope to read. But Mantrapped often rambles from topic to topic, and the juxtaposition of memoir and fiction feels too much like free association to be satisfying." - Francesca Delbanco, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Mantrapped resembles many of Fay Weldon's books: direct, entertainingly presented in short sections, the narrative jumping all about, covering her usual concerns (the lives of women (and, incidentally, men). But, although the cover insists this is: "a novel", Weldon appears to accepted the popular conclusion that:

Novels alone are not enough. Self-revelation is required. Readers these days demand to know the credentials of their writers, and so they should.
       Self-revelation, then, is what Weldon offers. She began her autobiography in Auto da Fay, but she continues it in very different style here:
This book, Mantrapped, is the second volume, and presents novel and autobiography side by side, leaping from one to the other, but related.
       (Note that autobiography alone, it would seem, is also not enough.)
       Leap she does, but the relation between fact and fiction is not immediately obvious. The novel-idea centres on a body-swap: Trisha (who won £3 million in the lottery, and has now lost it all) bumps into Peter, and they find themselves inhabiting each other's bodies. The reader is told this is what will happen, but the actual swap doesn't occur until some hundred pages into the book. Along the way, Weldon describes how Trisha has fallen so far, as well as the lives of some others, including her entrepreneurial landlady and Peter and his partner (but not wife) Doralee.
       Alternating with these accounts and stories, Weldon also offers autobiographical detail, plucking odds and ends together but in general filling in the period after that described in Auto da Fay. She sketches in all sorts of successes and failures from her life, including much about her writing efforts but also just trying to juggle work, men, children, and the writing life -- amazingly adaptable and resilient in the process. The narrative bounces along, barely lingering at any point (though returning to some repeatedly), introspection offered both regarding fact and fiction but tossed off quickly.
       The fiction that runs alongside fact is of the more familiar Weldon sort, an unlikely -- indeed, unbelievable -- occurrence used to illustrate the lives and roles of men and women, all quite cleverly and thoroughly engagingly done.
       It makes for an odd mix, never less than entertaining, but oddly surreal throughout -- the fact as much as the fiction. Typical, perhaps, is her description of finishing her third novel and bringing it to the publisher of her first two, MacGibbon and Kee, only to find:
that they had shut up shop for good that very morning. I asked a remaining member of staff, left to label the last packing cases, what she thought I should do with it, and she said she believed there was a publisher around the corner called Heinemann, why didn't I leave it at reception there ? They did novels, she thought.
       Drop it off at reception she did and -- amazingly, but also typically for Weldon (in both real life and her fiction) -- she got a call back a week later saying they'd love to publish it.
       It all makes for a fun if often bumpy ride, with many significant facts -- including her children -- hardly more than incidental. Despite this, it does make for a revealing portrait -- or at least allows Weldon to present herself as she wishes to be seen. And it is a good read throughout.

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Mantrapped: Reviews: Fay Weldon: Other books by Fay Weldon under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Fay Weldon, born in England and raised in New Zealand, received her M.A. in economics and psychology from St. Andrews University in Scotland. She is the author of nearly two dozen novels.

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