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The Spa Decameron (2007)

Borrowing its name from the fourteenth-century work The Decameron by Boccaccio in which people tell stories to pass the time, later popularised in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Fay Weldon updates the concept for a modern female audience, with a group of wealthy, intelligent women gathered at Castle Spa over Christmas. With financial difficulties and employee setbacks disrupting the normal functioning of the spa, the women are left to entertain themselves, and begin to share their stories. There is the trophy wife fresh out of prison for alleged arson; the public speaker with a heart condition who has taken an immigrant into her home; the journalist who was at the mercy of a scorned beautician; the brain surgeon whose intellect has scared off men; the judge who has undergone gender reassignment; the weather girl who feigned rape to pay her way through university; the conspiracy theorist who is convinced of the impending fall of society; the manicurist who has been courted by a Saudi price; the psychoanalyst and the case of the murdering mother; the company director and her sibling rivalry; the mortgage broker who frequents weddings and funerals; the screenwriter who blurs fiction and reality; the vicar's ex-wife who lived in a haunted house; and the stepmother who has to compete with her conniving stepdaughter. This book promised much, but the stories are quite heavy and dark, not making for an easy or light-hearted read. More literary than chick lit. (JC)

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