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The Wedding Group

2.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (1968)
  • ASIN: B001OJY1U6
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a light comedy organised around a collision of cultures - the bride and her groom come from completely different social backgrounds. The bride is 19 years of age and was raised in a small rural art-and-craft colony; the groom is more than ten years older, a journalist, with a stolid lower middle class background. She is naïve; he knows the ways of the world.

Matters are given a further twist by having the young wife collide with modern life. For her consumer culture is a marvel, indeed, the story involves watching her escape a lifestyle that was much too closed and narrow. Formerly living in a environment where everything was "crafty" and hand-made, and food was all laborously grown and prepared in the colony, once married the young wife wastes her entire day sitting before the television (she even watches "Bill and Ben, The Flowerpot Men"), living on fast food and frozen meals. Actually, the first thing the young wife does after leaving is purchase a cheap manufactured dress - until this point she had only worn sack-like homewoven kaftans.

In many ways the story is much along the lines of British comedy films of the 1950s, the productions associated with Ealing Studios, and the Rank organisation. The collision of modern ways and small community life had been a favoured cinema theme: think of the movies "The Titfield Thunderbolt" and "Rockets Galore!" Reading the book you can almost envisage the cast if this were a film: David would, perhaps, be played by an actor like John Gregson, his mother by Irene Handl, his father by Alistair Sim, Liz Fraser as his former flame, and so forth right down to Dennis Price as the philandering writer.

But it's a novel by Elizabeth Taylor - not a film - so the work has much more substance.
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Format: Hardcover
Rather to my surprise - for until now I'd have given five * to everything that Elizabeth Taylor wrote - but The Wedding Group didn't really work for me. Cressy's family live in a dreadful, self-consciously unworldly artistic-religious 'colony' dominated by the figure of her grandfather, who is a cross between Eric Gill and Augustus John with a dash of Stanley Spencer. Life is all homespun, mung beans and mud and something nasty in the woodshed. Cressy, however, is determined to escape. She meets David - who must be the least convincing Fleet Street journalist in the whole of English literature - and he is amused by her naivete and ends up marrying her. But will they ever free themselves from the coils of David's controlling mother?
Frankly, by the end I couldn't have cared less and was completely fed up with the whole cast of cardboard cut-outs.
So if this is your first dip into ElizabethTaylor, try something else ... apart from this one book, I have never found her anything less than brilliant.

A post-script to this: Something I have since discovered from Nicola Beauman's new biography of Elizabeth Taylor, is that she lived near Eric Gill and helped in his workshop, possibly even posed for him. Beauman also describes this as the weakest novel, and says that Taylor struggled to get the right satirical tone whilst still recognising Gill's stature as an artist. For once, she didn't pull it off. But do try her other novels which are wonderful.
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Format: Paperback
Comedies of manners in the fifties and sixties had the dullest titles, as if they were camouflage against male onlookers who might otherwise suspect that they were racier inside than they looked. Cressy, eighteen, rebels against her patriarch grandfather's closed-in community with its homespun clothes, outdoor work, communal eating and Catholic doctrine. (Although it sends its kids away to boarding school, and employs a cleaner?) She meets the much older David, and - this is about 1967 - encourages him to introduce her to the wonders of Wimpy Bars, fruit machines and television. 'He even had to take her into a launderette on their way home one night, to have a look round.' Her sheer youthful enthusiasm wins his heart, and they get married and have a baby. But David's lonely and doting divorced mother Midge wants to keep them nearby: not such a bad idea since Cressy is hopeless at motherhood. A formula comedy might sort all this out by having Midge and her ex-husband finally get back together, and Cressy reconcile with her community, but this novel ends in a more downbeat way when the extent of Midge's manipulations to keep her son close by have been revealed and the slim chances of her getting back with her ex are cut off by his death. The wedding group itself is a Wedgewood ornament bought from heartless antique dealers Alexia and Toby, which smashes in a patently symbolic way. The point of view switches skilfully to make us sympathetic to all the characters, but I did have some frustrations. Why doesn't Midge just get some friends or a lover? Why doesn't she just move to London too? I wasn't sure if the problem was with her, with a 1960s home-counties England whose attitudes seem so much ancient history now, or with both. But I didn't find this as brilliant as the other Elizabeth Taylor I've read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
this is not my sort of book at all. so predictable, badly written no proper story only read it because it was our book club choice so glad when it was finished.
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