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Cassandra at the Wedding Paperback – September 30, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"An important achievement…intoxicating fun." — Lillian Smith

"[Baker’s] ear for dialogue is acute, her prose immaculate…this is a novel of exceptional quality." — Times Literary Supplement

"I—whose usual bed time is ten o’clock—stayed up all night reading that exquisite Cassandra at the Wedding—dazzled by the pyrotechnics of such an artist. I can only think back toYoung Man with a Horn, and be overwhelmed by Dorothy Baker’s continuing brilliance." — Carson McCullers

"Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding (New York Review Books, 2004) is another novel in which it’s hard not to be caught up from the very first page by the first—person voice of the speaker. Originally published in 1962, this is the compulsively readable story of Cassandra’s unwilling trip home to attend (or prevent) her twin sister Judith’s wedding. She’s one of those neurotic, intellegent women, trying to understand the direction her life has taken. Long out of print, this is just one of the wonderful titles (both fiction and non—fiction) brought back to life by a publishing company whose mission, according to editor Edwin Frank, is to rescue some of the many truly remarkable works of literature that have had the misfortune of falling out of print." — Nancy Pearl, The Beat, KUOW 94.9 FM Seattle NPR

About the Author

Dorothy Baker (1907–1968) was born in Missoula, Montana, in 1907 and raised in California. After graduating from UCLA , she traveled in France, where she began a novel and, in 1930, married the poet Howard Baker. The couple moved back to California, and Baker completed an MA in French, later teaching at a private school. After having a few short stories published, she turned to writing full time, despite, she would later claim, being “seriously hampered by an abject admiration for Ernest Hemingway.” In 1938, she published Young Man with a Horn, which was awarded the prestigious Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1942 and, the next year, published Trio, a novel whose frank portrayal of a lesbian relationship proved too scandalous for the times; Baker and her husband adapted the novel as a play in 1944, but it was quickly shut down because of protests. Her final novel, Cassandra at the Wedding, examined the relationship between two exceptionally close sisters, whom Howard Baker asserted were based on both Baker herself and the couple’s two daughters. Baker died in 1968 of cancer.

Deborah Eisenberg is the author of four collections of short stories and a play, Pastorale.
 She is the winner of the 2000 Rea Award for the Short Story, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and five O. Henry Awards. The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award. She lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; First Printing edition (September 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171127
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,794,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By T. M. Teale on November 18, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The novel, Cassandra at the Wedding (first published in 1962), starts out simply enough; the first-person narrator, Cassandra Edwards, tells us that the spring semester has ended at Berkeley, California, where she is writing an M.A. thesis on the contemporary French novel; and she's packing a bag to drive to her parents' ranch near Tipton to attend her sister Judith's marriage to a truly lovable man. Not only is Cassandra a budding scholar, she's a talented pianist, and competitive swimmer, and she loves her sister more than anyone--even more than her sister's fiancee--so Cassie thinks. For this is the point: Cassie cannot bear to part with her nearly identical twin sister and will do almost anything to stop their wedding. As Cassie lets us deeper into her thought processes, the reader will find that--as learned and cultured as she is--Cassie isn't aware of the effects she has on others and on herself: Cassie is often cynical, passive aggressive, and wantonly perverse in her refusal to "get it," i.e., to love and let love. Her insolence towards the people she says she loves is an astonishing dismissal of their emotional lives. The fact that Dorothy Dodds Baker makes it easy for us to see Cassie without Cassie seeing herself is testament to the author's mastery of irony and understatement. Without a doubt Baker has created a character who is both infuriating and heroic. In fact, it's Cassie's youth and intelligence that makes her inability to let her sister go such a riveting contemporary drama. Also of note: The NYRB book cover is an appropriate painting by David Park; Deborah Eisenberg's "Afterward" is informative.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
You're a twin --- so close to your sister that she moved across the country.

Now she's getting married to a man you've never met and cutting the cord for good.

And you're her only bridesmaid.

In the universe we now inhabit --- the urban chickscape of "Sex and the City" --- Cassandra Edwards would have a posse of smart-talking, Chardonnay-swilling pals to help her through this overwrought moment. They'd gab for hours about her choice of a bridesmaid's dress. They'd speculate about the groom's endowment. And they'd tease Cassandra for her ambivalence about catching the bouquet.

"Cassandra at the Wedding" is a stunning rebuke to that shallow-as-glass sensibility.

More to the point, it's a smart, stylish, disturbing novel --- a book much too good to languish at an ranking of 1,000,000.

But then, Dorothy Baker is not exactly a household name. Young Man with a Horn --- her fictionalized account of the doomed jazz great Bix Beiderbecke --- was published in 1938. It's pure pleasure; I've read it a dozen times since discovering it as a kid. I thought it was her only novel until a Butler reader tipped me to "Cassandra at the Wedding", the last of what turn out to be Baker's three novels.

Like "Young Man with a Horn," this novel begins effortlessly: "I told them I could be free by the twenty-first, and that I'd come home the twenty-second." That makes Cassandra seem chatty and friendly. Well, it doesn't take long for her bitchy side to surface. Example: Her twin's beloved is John Thomas Finch. Cassandra's comment: "Where'd she meet him --- Birdland?"

Soon we see that Cassandra is an inventory of neurosis.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Common Reader on April 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't understand how this book could have sunk into obscurity: it's a powerful and beautiful novel, intense and absorbing, deeply layered--the kind that you want to re-read the moment you reach the last page, and one that you know you will return to regularly throughout your life. You'll have gained an idea of what the novel is about from synopses and other reviews, so I won't go into that except to say that, for me, it's most deeply about growing up, how there's really no end to the struggle to come into one's own true self--no end to the pain of it, nor the exhilaration of it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on October 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
Dorothy Baker's beautiful "Cassandra at the Wedding" maybe the grandmommy of all wedding related dysfunctional family genre - which more recently includes two brilliant movies "Margot at the Wedding" and "Rachel Getting Married". All these stories features a homecoming, a problematic sister and the coming to terms with we will never be able to get rid of our families - no matter how problematic they are.

This novel in centered on Cassandra and her twin sister, Judith, who is about to get married. The protagonist's homecoming brings along some past reminisces and trouble, such as a difficult relationship between siblings. Baker, however, is more interested in plot development throughout character development. The narrative moves on as the lives of people who populate the book move forward. It is a interesting device that the writer explores with brilliancy.

Divided into three parts, the narrative is opened and closed by Cassandra - with a Judith's intermission in between. Through their eyes we see the world in different colors and shapes. Despite being twins with the same appearance, the two sisters approach the world, life, family and Judith's wedding in different forms. Baker is very able to make two different narrators, each with her own voice and plausibility.

In "Cassandra at the wedding" , just like life, we smile, we cry, we feel happy, sad and overcome problems and find new ones. With her accurate prose, Baker is capable of capture these with their nuances, beauty and sadness.
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