A couple of months ago, I announced that I was going to go on a trip to London on my Tumblr and asked my followers if they had any suggestions as to literary places I shouldn’t miss. A number of people suggested paying a visit to Persephone Books, a publishing company that reprints 20th-century books by female writers that have been unjustly neglected or forgotten (ranging from science fiction to cookbooks). Browsing through the website, I chuckled when I saw that “books by men” was a separate category (take that, “chicklit”!) and decided to put the store on my list of sights to see. Thanks to me and the two friends I’d dragged along, Persephone Books had a very profitable afternoon and we left giddy, eager to start reading.
Since my trip had a fairly small budget, I only purchased one book: Cheerful Weather For The Wedding by Julia Strachey (yes relation). Virginia Woolf called it “astonishingly good” and I’d seen pictures of a film adaptation floating around the blogosphere, so I was excited to get my hands on a copy.
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding tells the story of (surprise!) a wedding and the tensions on the morning leading up to it. All the characters seem to be in a snit, getting on each other’s nerves while they wait for the bride to come down. The bride, for her part, is downing a bottle of rum in her room upstairs and contemplating if she would run off with an old flame (who is also waiting for her downstairs) if he’d ask her. This novella is only 119 pages long, and those are some generously spaced pages; it feels like a short story that got out of hand.
Opinions are divided on this one and I can see why. The story is quite dark, the characters not very sympathetic, and the love triangle far from romantic. I’ve heard theories that this was Strachey letting out her feelings of frustration regarding her own in-laws, which wouldn’t surprise me. She depicts the scene using very visual details, turning the wedding into something grotesque (the descriptions of make-up are particularly unappealing). However, for me, this story lacked a certain punch, a sharpness that would’ve made it work. For all its bitterness, it lacks real bite.