The Spa Decameron by Fay Weldon is more of a group of short stories than a novel. Not that I’m complaining, either way the book is very entertaining with quite a few twists and turns.
The reason why the Phoebe, the narrator ends up at Castle Spa over the Christmas-New Year holiday is every woman’s dream. Her husband floods the house three days before Christmas, then leaves her to deal with the aftermath when he leaves to assist his mother, who has broken her hip. Phoebe cancels Christmas and books herself a spa holiday in Cumbria. As it turns out her children and grandchildren prefer staying at home over Christmas anyway.
So far, so good. No cooking, no cleaning, no shopping, no presents. No visitors, no drunken uncles, no family fights. I wish I could go on a spa holiday myself. Christmas is over-rated, especially when you are the female of the household.
Castle Spa isn’t everything it was advertised though. The owner, Lady Caroline, hasn’t paid the bills and most of the advertised treatments and indulgences are unavailable. A New Zealander, Beverley, seems to be running the place almost singlehandedly, grumbling under her breath all the while.
The guests, who are all women, are successful, well off and have very interesting backgrounds and stories. They gather daily in the Jacuzzi to share their stories. Quite a few have twists in their tales which I did not see coming.
My favourite tales were those of the Company Director, who looks decades younger than her 77 years and is in love with the most unexpected person, the Trophy Wife’s, who has just been released from jail after having been set up by her tycoon ex-husband and the Step-mother’s story (here’s a clue, the step-daughter always wins). Phoebe doesn’t get the opportunity to tell her own story due to a power failure, but the reader already knows it from Phoebe’s segues between the other women’s stories.
The only other Fay Weldon book I’ve read is Letters to Alice, which is probably an obvious choice for me, due to the Jane Austen theme. I noticed the author used similar phrases and voice in both books, possibly she writes as she speaks. The Spa Decameron was enjoyable but if I had to take either of these books on my spa holiday, I would choose Letter to Alice.