Customer Reviews: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (Persephone Classics)
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These two stories brought together in the Penguin Classics series (but also available in other editions) are related in setting and theme. One, published in 1932, is a mere novella; the other, from 1951, is a short novel. Together they reveal the work of a charming but minor British writer of the second quarter of the Twentieth Century. On the evidence of these works, Julia Strachey emerges as a comedian of sentiment; think Evelyn Waugh with the sensibility of Elizabeth Bowen. The main difference between the two books is the balance between comedy and feeling in each.

CHEERFUL WEATHER FOR THE WEDDING comes over as a brilliant comic set-piece in search of a novel to contain it. The setting is the large house in the South of England, staffed by a fair number of servants whom the owner, Mrs. Thatcham, is unable either to manage or to comprehend. Dolly, the oldest of the Thatcham children, is to be married in the afternoon, and a number of relatives and friends are gathering for the occasion. All of them are peculiar in one way or another, and most of the story proceeds in an almost surreal montage of comic dialogue. But the bride herself, Dolly, has cold feet and fortifies herself with surreptitious swigs of rum. Meanwhile a former suitor, Joseph Patten, wanders around trying to summon the courage to talk privately to Dolly, something he should have done ages ago. He gets his chance almost at the end of the story, but not in the way he expected. Suddenly, bits of back-story come tumbling confusedly out, but too late to affect the course of events. Joseph has missed his opportunity, but he is not the only one. For a brief moment, we sense the traction that the story might have had, if Strachey had only given these characters more depth.

Although written two decades later, AN INTEGRATED MAN occupies the same time period (the thirties), the same location (the Dorset coast), and the same upper-middle-class lifestyle, where people might stay with friends for months at a time, and houses were supplied with numerous servants to look after them. Gwen Cedar, the hostess here, appeared as a minor character in the earlier novella, and shares Mrs. Thatcham's incomprehension of the servants -- although she goes one further by treating them to forced lectures on aesthetics. The contemporary satire is one of the most interesting aspects of the book. Strachey, who was married to two artists herself, gets in numerous references to modern art and coffee-table theories about everything from social progress to radical education. For her two main guests, Aron and Ned, are educational theorists who have just bought a boys' boarding school to use as a showcase for the most progressive approaches.

Forty-year-old Ned proclaims himself on the first page of the book as "an integrated man," fully in command of himself and in tune with his surroundings. What hubris! For before long, Ned has fallen head over heels in love with Aron's new wife, Marina. Or rather, fallen in lust; the distinction is important to both Ned and the author, who writes obliquely but with surprising frankness about Marina's physical effect on Ned. I imagine that I am not alone in recognizing the syndrome that Strachey analyzes so precisely, but she is less good at making me actually re-live it; I always feel I am watching Ned from the outside. Towards the very end, however, when this comedy of desire reaches a climax involving the danger of real people getting really hurt, there are a few moments that have the frisson of true emotional agony. But only a few. While this is much the more substantial of the two books, and certainly worth reading for its social observations, Strachey's comedic bent gets in the way of her potential as a novelist, resulting in another missed opportunity.
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on December 22, 2012
Stumbled upon this gem because of the film adaptation with Felicity Jones. I always try to read the book before seeing the film so I hunted down a copy. It is surprisingly difficult to get ahold of this but it was worth it. An enjoyable fluffy story, fun to read on a rainy day or on the beach. The characters a whimsical treat. More character development should have been done, though.

If you can acquire a copy, do so. However, make sure you go in knowing that they're sparse characters and with that mindset, the novella is a real pleasure.
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VINE VOICEon October 21, 2010
I have been very excited to read any Persephone Classics book, they have published wonderful forgotten books, mostly by female authors. THis was the least interesting of the titles I have read. It is a very short story so I don't regret having sampled it, but its not that interesting or particularly well written. The story covers the few hours before Dolly's wedding. You have the silly mother, continually praising the weather, the bride is so nervous she polishes off a bottle of rum, the ex boyfriend who regrets having dumped Dolly shows up and finally Dolly spills a bottle of ink on her wedding dress just minutes before she has to walk down the aisle.
I fully understand this is just a feeling..but I just didn't really take to the story. It was told so quickly it was difficult to get a sense of any character or develop any feelings for them...or much interest in what was going on. This possibly was a story that resonated at the time..the whole English aristocracy life style...but it was just not that interesting. Its a short story, so if you decide to take the plunge you won't be wasting too much time if you ultimately feel as I did.
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on September 2, 2013
I've watched the beautiful film adaptation many times in the last few months. It's a lovely movie but left me with questions. I had to read the book!

The book was enjoyable, but less magical than the movie.
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on June 24, 2015
I can't wait to read it again. Novella or long short story.
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on October 30, 2014
good read.
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on December 15, 2009
Not one person (except, perhaps the groom) in this book has any redeeming qualities.
"Heroine" is a self-involved, insipid child.
"Hero" is worse.
This book was a total waste of time. Had it been longer, I would have stopped reading all together.
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