Kate Mosse: Fay Weldon was one of the great writers of the late 20th century

Kate Mosse said Fay Weldon was “one of the great writers of the late 20th century” as she paid tribute to the late author who died at the age of 91.

The Labyrinth author added Weldon, who wrote The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil and Praxis, had a “radical message for women” to “have fun and be yourself”.

Weldon, a novelist, playwright and screenwriter, whose body of work includes more than 30 novels, is also credited as a writer on the period drama Upstairs, Downstairs.

The Edwardian series, which ran from 1971 to 1975, earned her an award from the Writers Guild of America for the show’s first episode.

Fay Weldon death
Author Fay Weldon, known for works including The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil and Praxis, has died aged 91. (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Mosse said: “She was enormously important, she was one of the great writers of the late 20th century and people, I think, sometimes forget how radical she was.”

The 61-year-old, who is the founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, added: “She was funny, she was mischievous, she was witty.

“I think sometimes that went against her because literature has always been (so) snobby about anybody, male or female writers, (of) funny books.”

Mosse said when she first met Weldon, when 1983’s The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil was coming out, she was struck by her being an “absolute queen”.

The novel Weldon is best remembered for follows a woman who goes to great lengths to take revenge on her adulterous husband and was later adapted into a TV series and film.

Mosse added: “She was so kind to other women writers, she said to be yourself.

“And she also said, ‘women don’t have to agree with each other just because they’re women. Nobody expects men to agree with each other just because they’re men’.”

Mosse said Weldon felt her comedic books counted against her when she was shortlisted but did not win the Booker Prize for Fiction for her 1978 novel Praxis.

Weldon later chaired the judges’ panel for the prestigious award in 1983.

Mosse added: “(Previously) women were very much encouraged to sit quietly at home, find the right husband, do all of those things…

“(Weldon) deserves to be remembered as a woman who changed writing for women and gave many of us the courage to be the writers we wanted to be.”

She also said: “I think that is still a radical message, women being themselves and having fun with it… Well, we salute her.”

Women’s Equality Party founder and former leader Sophie Walker added to the tributes from Chocolat author Joanne Harris and broadcaster Rev Richard Coles.

Walker said: “She was funny and dark and clever and angry and took not one single prisoner.”

Weldon, born in Britain in September 1931 and brought up in New Zealand until she returned as child, worked as a journalist and briefly in the Foreign Office before moving to work as an advertising copywriter.

She left this career to focus on her writing and published her first novel, The Fat Woman’s Joke, in 1967.

Much of her fiction explores issues surrounding women’s relationships with men, children, parents and each other, including the novels Down Among The Women (1971) and Female Friends (1974).

She published a memoir called Auto Da Fay in 2002 when she was 70.

Weldon was made a CBE for her services to literature in the New Year Honours list in 2001.

A family statement said on Wednesday: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Fay Weldon (CBE), author, essayist and playwright. She died peacefully this morning January 4, 2023.”