Sunday, 24 May 2009

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

I read Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey yesterday and it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon (it is a novella of 119 pages).

Persephone number 38 and one of this Spring's Persephone Classics, Cheerful Wedding for the Wedding, seems to divide bloggers and Persephone lovers. Simon at Stuck in a Book "loved every second" but Nicola of Vintage Reads said that it was "not my cup of tea" and that she wished she had ordered something else from the Persephone catalogue (funnily enough a title that I myself am coveting); I fall somewhere in the middle, siding more with Simon. I enjoyed its dark humour and the underlying despair of the bride, Dolly, and one of the central characters, Joseph, but I found it to be lacking in ... substance? It is a deliciously witty novel and one that I would be happy to reread (which is testimony to my enjoyment) but I must confess to my relief that I caved and borrowed the title from the library rather than splurging on a £12 copy, although I will add it to the collection once I am more flush (the same goes for the Virginia Woolf title of the same name - Flush). Of course, it is the underlying problem with most novellas (or short stories) that we are left wanting more, or it could be simply a result of the bittersweet nature of this one: cheerful it is not, albeit witty in tone.

Speaking of Virginia Woolf, both the reviews linked to above, draw comparison with her work and I heartily agree; the dry yet humorous depictions of people is reminiscent of Woolf and the novella's events occur over one afternoon, reminding me of Woolf's Between the Acts and Mrs Dalloway. Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press published the title in 1932 and Virginia wrote that it was, "a very cute, clever, indeed rather remarkable acidulated story ... I think it astonishingly good ... it is extraordinarily complete and sharp and individual."

I like the absurd touches in Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, the acute yet flyingly sardonic observations of people and the innocuous pet tortoise. It is a brief example of black humour and although hyperbolic in parts it never steps outwith the realms of realism. A bride with cold feet on her wedding day drinking herself to ink stains and flushed cheeks? Sounds prefectly reasonable to me (apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald bettered this motif in The Great Gatsby, but despite reading and studying the book more than once, I don't recall, but that may have something to do for my dislike for the text).

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is not my favourite Persephone but I did like and enjoy it.

Images courtesy of Persephone Books and Amazon

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