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3.3 out of 5 stars
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (Persephone Classics)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2011
Oh dear, I seem to be in the minority here! Until now I have loved all of the Persephone republications that I have read, but I didn't care so much for this short novella.

The idea of a bride (Dolly Thatcham) who really shouldn't be marrying the man she is about to wed is interesting, but we don't actually meet Dolly until about halfway through the book. After this point the `story' becomes more absorbing and there is much to glean from beneath the surface that is merely hinted at. Until then though we are presented with an array of people, mainly relatives who have gathered at the house before the wedding, most of whom feel more like caricatures than real people. The mother of the bride is exaggeratedly irritating, but she does at least provide moments of amusement and is one of the few characters you feel you are beginning to know. The others are more like passing strangers apart from Dolly, and the rather strange Joseph who had been close to her the previous summer before she met Owen and who, after the wedding, when the bride and groom have left, makes a startling revelation. That it doesn't seem possible in terms of timing and hence doesn't ring true makes its inclusion all the more puzzling.

Apart from some descriptive passages, I found the writing style uninspiring, but the main cause of my disappointment was, I think, the characters. Nevertheless, I'm pleased I read it, but I wouldn't rush to recommend it. There are plenty of other Persephone gems that are, in view, more endearing and worthwhile - the short story collection Good Evening, Mrs Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes, for instance, or Someone at a Distance, or Miss Buncle's Book, a delight from start to finish.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2008
The 'midget of a village woman, like a mosquito' who pants and grunts around setting up the after-wedding tea may make this comment in passing, but in this short novel it is only too apparent that the marriage between Dolly Thatcham and Owen Bigham is indeed a totally mistaken idea. Bearing a resemblance to Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, the book takes the reader through the day of the wedding, the before and after - notably missing out the wedding itself. We are sucked into a clamouring household - each individual bearing their own preoccupations with an edginess typical of a 'big day'. That alone made me want to run in any and every other direction. The bride's mother, Mrs Thatcham has a birdlike nervousness and a prattling stupidity that is in direct contrast to her daughter's languid gloom and inability to make her voice heard. It is only 119 pages but it is exhausting in it's heightened emotions and lack of peace. For there is another man, and the other man loves Dolly too - although neither have ever said it and both seem too stupified to say it now, or even consider it worth saying. Joseph runs to find her as a hammer in his head bangs out 'stop the wedding' over and over again, but when he does find Dolly (after a comedy of just missing her in each room in the house) she is preoccupied with covering up the ink she has spilled over her dress and says shortly 'you can tell me anything you like afterwards'. Julia Strachey's writing is stunning. Her characterisation is entirely unique, yet describes everything in a way that is so recognisable you wonder how you've never seen it that way before. Like the little boy, Jimmy's, face with features 'so small they could hardly be seen, bunched up together as they were in the middle of his face, like currants in a penny bun when they all run into the centre together for some reason'. Or, Old Mrs Whistable who 'resembled the blackish nobbled and twisted stump of an old elm tree very much more nearly than she did a human being'. An exquisite, frustrating, unresolved tale - just as is the messy business of life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 4 August 2012
First published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press in 1932, Julia Strachey's 'Cheerful Weather for the Wedding' reads almost as if it was written as a play, and when you learn from Frances Partridge's introduction to this novella, that one of Julia's ambitions was to write a play and that she attended drama school in 1939 with the intention of learning about theatrical production, the stage-like quality of this brief, but engaging novella is more easily understood.

It is a blustery spring day and Mrs Thatcham is preparing for the wedding of her eldest daughter, twenty-three-year-old Dolly to the Hon. Owen Bigham, who is eight years Dolly's senior, in the Diplomatic Service, and described by the author as: "...a man who had enormously wide shoulders and a thick neck, like a bull...with a flushed, simple, affectionate face." While Mrs Thatcham tries to organize her servants, family and friends in the hopes that the day will run as smoothly as possible, Dolly hides upstairs in her bedroom drinking rum and wondering if she is making a rather large mistake in marrying the Hon. Owen. And while Dolly is in her room, we meet the wedding guests - a whole range of weird and wonderful characters getting themselves into a variety of rather amusing situations, including one Joseph Patten, a young man of whom Dolly was rather enamoured before she met Owen Bigham - but as this slim book is such a brief one, I hesitate to include any further information at the risk of leaving very little for prospective readers to discover.

This is an enchanting domestic comedy that is elegantly eccentric with a brilliant 'Bloomsbury' quality to it. If you like the writing of Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster and Stella Gibbons - as I do, then you will be likely to enjoy this little gem - as I did; although, I should add that this brief story is not of quite the same calibre as novels by those authors. That said, this amusing, engaging and very attractively presented Persephone novella is one that will be staying on my bookshelves to be re-read and re-enjoyed on future occasions.

4 Stars.

Please Note: This book has recently been made into a film, directed by Donald Rice and starring Elizabeth McGovern (from 'Downton Abbey') as Dolly's mother - definitely something I will be looking forward to seeing.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I loved every second! This short novel (120pp) all takes place on the wedding day of Dolly and Owen. And it's very, very funny. There is a semi-serious romance storyline through the centre of it (should Dolly be marrying Owen? Will they actually get married?) but it is the host of secondary characters which make this novel (or perhaps novella?) so amusing. My favourites are brothers Robert and Tom - the latter spends the entire novel trying to persuade the former to change his emerald-coloured socks: "Robert, your mother would desire you to go upstairs instantly to take off those bounder's socks, Robert, and to change into a respectable pair. Will you go, Robert?" He is distraught lest their schoolfellows - 'men from Rugby' - be at the wedding and witness this calamatous social faux pas. Robert's iterated response is "Go and put your head in a bag." I kept hoping these two would crop up, even though they essentially said the same thing every time they appeared, it was done so amusingly and accurately that I could have read pages of Tom's serious monotone and Robert's complete lack of care.

And then there's dotty Nellie-from-the-village, one of the 'help':

"The gentleman that come to see about the hot pipes out in the lobby, said to me, ' have two of my own,' he said, 'what are both of them big strapping great boys by now. And oh... good golly! - what devils and demons they do be!' he said. 'Well,' I said to him, 'my son Teddy is exactly the very same thing over again,' I said. 'All the time this cigarette-smoking, they pointed boots, and all of it, why, devils and demons isn't in it with such as they are,' I said. No. Very decidedly not!"

The whole family, and especially servants, are very funny characters - slightly ridiculous, but not too exaggerated as to not ring true. I suppose that's why the humour is so good - rooted in the actual. Sort of a less-hyperbolic PG Wodehouse, perhaps. Crossed with Virginia Woolf.

If you're wavering on Cheerful Weather For The Wedding, I encourage you to give it a go I think it's entered my Top Five Persephone Books, and since I've read all or part of over thirty, that's not bad at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2011
Very very rarely do I not read to the end of a book - but sadly I could not battle through the tedium of this slim volume. Completely contrary to all the comments I have read (on this website and elsewhere) I found the characterisation and style of writing exceptionally poor. Unfortunately I cannot comment on what happens during the second half of the novella but the first is taken up entirely with the wedding guests congregating at the bride to be's home at lunchtime. It was hard to form a bond (let alone a liking) for any of the characters involved because we were told so little about them - all of the observations were just .. pointless as far as I could see. I hate to speak ill of any book but this one (which I was so looking forward to reading) was a complete disappointment. Sorry Persephone - I read and enjoy many of your classics but this one was way below the bar.
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on 19 January 2014
Having read ambivalent reviews- i opted for the audio version read wonderfully by Miriam Margoyles.
The story meanders and there are multiple characters - so many, that it is hard to get any real sense of who they are. And why they are acting the way they do. So they are caricatures and there is much repetition and unnecessary description. We are told on multiple occasions about Mrs Thatchams orange eyes and small feet. The two young boys are tiresome with their bizarre quarrel about socks -and the response "go and put your head in a bag" is repeated so many times. This feels like a draft that needed better editing to be a succinct novella. The characters seem shallow and there is no resolution. Its hard to know whose story it is - Dolly the unwilling bride? Joseph the jilted suitor? Is it a gentle comedy of manners? As a result its hard to care. Could have been good but missed the mark for me. The only character I cared about was the tortoise.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 October 2010
This novella, written in the 1930s, is a delight from start to finish. The action takes place over the course of a day as friends and family gather at a country house for Dolly's wedding. The bride and groom have only known each other for a few months, and she is beginning to have second thoughts.

The restricted setting allows for some great set pieces and a whole range of characters, all sharply and realistically drawn and some absolutely hilarious, especially Dolly's mother. There are also moments of sadness and regret which add depth and texture to the story. Although the book is only about eighty pages long, one gets an impression of all the past events which have made the characters who they are.

I absolutely loved this perfect little book.
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on 16 December 2014
I know a lot about Julia Strachey from reading Frances Partridge's biography of her and picked up that she was a talented but difficult person who profoundly irritated all her friends as well as amusing them. I had read good reports of this short novel so was expecting a lot but I found it disappointing, disjointed and difficult to read, short as it was. Other people say they have found it funny but I didn't even smile, let alone laugh. Julia Strachey of course came from a famously talented and high-achieving family but I did not discern any particular talent in this work. For me, it was a waste of time and generally, I love Persephone Books.
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on 7 June 2014
Having recently read an autobiography about Julia Strachey, thought that I'd give one of her books a go. It was O.K, good for a short holiday read, but nothing too special. I have also seen the DVD, which was beautifully shot, but again, quite basic and relies on the characters idiosyncrasies to make it work. Pleasant enough though.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2008
This book is really short, but introduces lots of characters in its pages. I felt I only knew two characters well by the end - the mother of the bride, outrageous in her inability to empathise with anyone at all, and the 'other man'. The book is too brief to explain much, and I had to guess why the wedding was happening at all.
Having said that, it was an amusing read with undertones of great unhappiness and unfulfilment.
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