Novel by Fay Weldon, published 1980

Puffball is the story of Liffey, a woman who wants to live in the country because it is so pristine and is punished for her naive foolishness; Richard, her husband who leaves her; Mabs, a witch; and Tucker, her earthly husband.

However, the main person in the novel is Liffey's child, who keeps growing as the novel progresses. The suspense lies in whether it will make it into the world alive. There are many forces at work against it: Mab is jealously trying to provoke a miscarriage, Liffey's life does not go in the best of directions, and nature itself does not offer the foetus the best of conditions.

And so we are told about the development of a child, and of the environment around it. Who thought a pregnancy could be this interesting? Weldon uses her skill to make it so, and the story is funny as well as compelling. While reading it one smiles and laughs, while also learning something about one's responsibility to be responsible and why people hurt eachother sometimes.

Giant puffballs had pushed up out of the ground a yard or so from where they lay. How could she not have noticed before? Three white globes, giant mushroom balls, each the size and shape of a human skull, thinned in yellow white, stood blindly sentinel. Liffey was on her feet, shuddering and aghast.
'They're only puffballs,' said Richard. 'Nature's bounty. They come up overnight. What's the matter with you?'

The matter was that the smooth round swelling of the fungus made Liffey think of a belly swollen by pregnancy, and she said so. Richard found another one, but its growth had been stunted by tangled conch-grass, and its surface was convoluted, brownish and rubbery.
'This one looks like a brain in some laboratory jar,' said Richard.

Puff"ball` (?), n. Bot.

A kind of ball-shaped fungus (Lycoperdon giganteum, and other species of the same genus) full of dustlike spores when ripe; -- called also bullfist, bullfice, puckfist, puff, and puffin.


© Webster 1913.

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