- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 2 hours and 23 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Persephone Books
- Audible.com Release Date: March 11, 2010
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003BWG1T8
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Cheerful Weather for the Wedding Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
Strachey has an amazing ability to describe her characters so that they are perfectly visible to the reader. The small details and the clever descriptions of actions and looks are simply perfection.
The plot itself is secondary to the character studies, but it is acerbically witty and profoundly real. Her metaphors, similes, and use of symbolism (oh, that tortoise!) were also astounding.
After I finished, I started it again immediately. Now that I knew everyone, I wanted to read it over with that knowledge. That being said, I'm not for certain that I "liked" it. I certainly didn't always enjoy Strachey's observations of these characters, as it seemed so personal, as if I knew them and hated to have their weaknesses exposed.
As a side note, I will say that I thought Joseph's explosion weakened the force of the story. (And was his announcement even true? How can one trust him at this point?) It didn't lessen the brilliance of the novella, though, or of Strachey's talent. I'm sad that she wrote so little.
As for the content of the novella itself, it is a breezy and delightful read, but with more substance than it's slim length and buoyant tone would suggest. The story takes place in the country home of Dolly, the bride, on her wedding day. There is not much plot in terms of a dramatic series of events leading to resolution- this is the story of a household (set entirely in the house) on the day of a reluctant bride's wedding. The reader is a mayfly on the wall: we flit fromvignette to vignette with minimal knowlege of the backstories of the many characters, and only brief descriptions of them. Yet though the details are sparse, they are ingeniously chosen, allowing the reader to flesh out the characters and fill in the untold story leading up to the day of the wedding.
Author Julia Starchy has also gifted the reader with a narrative rich in vivid imagery, metaphor, humor, and a delightful tone. When I finished the book (in a single sitting), I was left with a prevailing feeling of, well,cheerfulness- quite an achievement considering the characters are not exactly loveable, nor the storyline cheerful. This is testament to Starchy's skill.
Although there is plenty of social commentary on the upper middle class (the family is well to do, but aren't quite aristocratic) and their lower class servants, the theme focuses not so much on "upstairs-downstairs", but rather on choices people make (or let others make for them), and how small actions (or inactions) can change the course of lives around them. Particularly choices about what one chooses to believe. At the end of the book, the reader is also left to make his or her own choices about what to believe about many things, including whether the characters made the right choices and whether or not accusations that arise toward the end are true.
Other reviewers have said they disliked the book because the characters are unlikeable. While it's true that none of the protagonists are particularly noble or heroic, I find them to be very human, and very interesting. Others have accused the characters of being one dimensional. While I agree that some of the characters could be described as having shallow or superficial personalities, they are not at all flat or one dimensional, if you are picking up on the subtle references to their depths Starchy has so deftly slipped into the text and subtext.
For example, Mrs. Thatcher may on the surface seem to be a stereotype of a weak airhead completely detached from reality. But if one is reading closely, one will see that her perception of "cheerful weather" and blindness to unpleasantries that are of her own making or beyond her control is as forced as the blooming bulbs that fill her house.
I found Cheerful Weather for the Wedding to be both thought provoking and fun to read. It's not my favorite book, but it is one I enjoyed enough to read again and again. This book won't be for everyone, but if you aren't expecting it to be what it is not (it is neither Downton Abbey nor James Joyce), it is an enjoyable read, not to mention a beautiful addition to your bookshelf, if you chose the Persophone Classics edition.
A note to those who have seen the movie: I throughly enjoyed the movie, and thoroughly enjoyed the book, as separate entities. I felt the movie was in keeping with the spirit of the book, and though there are differences, nothing was so drastically altered that it became unrecognizable. If the movie left you seeking answers in the book or wanting more of the story, you might be disappointed. If anything, the movie has added characters and side storylines and fills in much of what the book leaves blank, particularly the flashbacks. I felt what differences there were between the movie and the actual text of the book, as well as my imagination when reading it, gave me double the enjoyment (for example- the manifestation of the notorious lampshade wedding gift is quite different but equally hilarious), rather than upsetting me as sometimes happens when movies aren't scrupulously faithful to the book. If you enjoyed the movie, you'll enjoy the book, and it's worth your time to read it. if you didn't enjoy the movie, I can't promise that you'll like the book, but the style of writing and slight differences in the story and plot may be enough.
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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