The Hearts and Lives of Men

Published by Flamingo on 7th September 1987

“Reader, I am going to tell you the story of Clifford, Helen and Little Nell. Helen and Clifford wanted everything for Nell, and wanted it so much and so badly their daughter was in great danger of ending up with nothing at all, not even a life”

So begins Fay Weldon’s stunning new novel, a fairy-tale for grown-ups, a happy-ever-after adventure story in which, you will be glad to hear, love finally triumphs over lust, goodwill over satanic forces, and sheer kindness over piercing malevolence. The pace never falters: the language glitters: the wit is razor sharp: yet laughter, tears and a lump in the throat are never far away.

Clifford and Helen move in the smart art world of London’s swinging sixties. He is the handsome young whizz-kid director of Leonardo’s, the Art House that isn’t Sotheby’s or Christie’s. She is the one who has “power over the hearts and lives of men”. They fall in love. Nell is conceived in white-hot passion, and is born as sweet and good as any girl-child in Dickens. But Helen and Clifford’s love cannot survive the machinations of the witchy South African heiress Angie Wellbrook – who is determined to have Clifford all for her own. Clifford and Helen fall out of love and into hate, and Nell goes missing, to become a lost child alone in a hostile world, forever on the underside of things, moving through a series of adventures which include violent kidnapping, satanic dabblings and a criminal idyll in a Welsh farmhouse. It is many years and broken hearts later that her parents see the foly of their ways, and the tangled threads of all their lives begin to fall into place.