Julia Strachey: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (1932)
It seems my reading is very influenced by Danielle’s these days as this is the second book in a row I bought after having read an appealing review on her blog.
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is an absolutely delightful little book; charming but still witty, filled with dry humour, detailed descriptions and quirky characters.
On the cover it is compared to Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster and Stella Gibbons which is apt but isn’t giving Julia Strachey enough credit for her originality.
A very crisp March morning slowly turns into a gloriously bright but chilly day. Dolly is about to get married to the Hon Owen Bingham who is eight years her senior. While she is getting ready in her room upstairs, the guests arrive and gather downstairs. Among the guests is Joseph with whom Dolly has spent a wonderful summer and possibly a love story.
The closer we get to the wedding the more things go topsy-turvy. Mrs Thatcham, Dolly’s mother, who is a very muddle-headed person assigns the same room to different people, the young cousins of Dolly chase and tease each other loudly, Dolly empties a bottle of rum, Joseph starts crying and in the end Dolly and Joseph are caught by Dolly’s soon-to-be husband in something that looks like an embrace.
Reading this book is like watching a dance on a slightly crowded dance floor. While all the dancers know their moves, they get into each other’s way, bump into each other and what we get to see is graceful chaos.
The character portraits are very witty. Dolly and Kitty’s mother, Mrs Thatcham is such an airhead. While there is huge drama going on behind the scenes, she wouldn’t even notice it, if it was brought to her attention. All she seems to care about is that there is cheerful weather for the wedding. Dolly and Joseph’s relationship is a mystery. We really wonder whether she is doing the right thing in marrying Bingham.
The people and their drama unfold within pages full of delicate descriptions which reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s early work. There are descriptions of the way light falls into a room through fern pots and colors it in a greenish hue, of the shades of dresses, the shape of a flower, the pattern on a lampshade. These are delicate and exquisite descriptions which paint a wonderfully rich picture.
Cheerful Weather for a Wedding is a most enjoyable little book which I can recommend to anyone who likes the writing of the early Virginia Woolf or E.M. Forster, infused with a dose of dry wit.
The novella has just been made into a movie starring Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) as Mrs Thatcham. I was very keen on watching it but it has received an incredible amount of bad reviews and an IMDb rating of 5.1.
Has anyone seen the movie?
And has anyone read other books by Julia Strachey?