Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

 

“It is a brisk English March day, and Dolly is getting ready to marry the wrong man. Waylaid by the sulking admirer who lost his chance, an astonishingly oblivious mother bustling around and making a fuss, and her own sinking dread, the bride-to-be struggles to reach the altar.

Dolly knew, as she looked round at the long wedding-veil stretching away forever, and at the women, too, so busy all around her, that something remarkable and upsetting in her life was steadily going forward.”

 

Julia Strachey, Lytton Strachey’s niece, wrote two pieces of fiction in her lifetime. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding appeared in 1932. The action, such as it is, takes place on March 5, in the home of Dolly Thatcham, whose wedding day it is. The narrator is omniscient, but prefers to lurk in the corner of a room, minutely observing the behavior of the bride, her family, and their guests.

Not, one guesses, a happy marriage in the making.

Dolly is privately nursing a bottle of rum while Joseph, a family friend, lingers on the edge of tears all day. Alas, he isn’t the groom, but a tongue-tied former suitor who always thought Dolly must know he loved her.

The portrait of Mrs. Thatcham is especially pitiless, as she trots around resolutely promoting the facade of propriety necessary to the day.

Most striking is Strachey’s technique of watching her characters’ minute behavior avidly, without commenting:

 

“The strange thing
was the way
the eyes kept ceaselessly roaming,
shifting, ranging,
round and round the room.
Round and round again…
this looked queer–the face
so passive and remote seeming,
the eyes so restless.”

 

That’s the bride she’s describing. The effect is discomfiting, as is the whole novella.

 

 

 

This is one of those lovely books published by Persephone, a UK imprint that turns out beautiful paper-bound editions with the loveliest cover art, printed endpapers, and what I believe are called “French flaps,” where the cover folds over to give you a flap for copy. They’re always beautiful and readable; mostly women writers.

I would suggest ordering through Persephone for a copy to cherish, although for the impatient, it is available through Amazon, as well.

 

“A brilliant,
bittersweet
upstairs-downstairs
comedy.”

The Guardian

 

 

Endpapers: 1932 design for a printed dress fabric by Madeleine Lawrence.

 

 

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~ by eaesthete on 05/06/10.

5 Responses to “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding”

  1. got a number of books for my Mother, for Mothers Day. this is one. (of course I can not wait to read it either) pgt

  2. wow, would love to get my hands on it!!!

  3. I’m sold, as well. I have to know the outcome, now that it has been so beautifully framed.

  4. Ahhh, Persephone Books. Anyone visiting London should make a beeline for one of their heavenly shops, soon to be just one shop sadly.

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