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A Wedding in December Paperback – May 2, 2006

3.0 out of 5 stars 160 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Anita Shreve is the acclaimed author of 14 previous novels, includingTestimony; The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club; and The Weight of Water, which was a finalist for England's Orange prize. She lives in Massachusetts.

From Booklist

Recrimination and regret underlie an emotional reunion of seven former classmates from the Kidd Academy, an elite prep school, who gather at an inn in the Berkshire Mountains for a wedding. Nora, the widow of an abusive, renowned poet and the owner of the inn, has agreed to host the wedding of Bridget, ill with cancer, and Bill, who has divorced his wife to marry his high-school sweetheart. Among the wedding guests are Harrison, still in love with Nora and still reeling from the tragic death of his roommate, a gifted but troubled athlete, at the academy some 27 years earlier, and Agnes, a long-single history teacher with a tumultuous love life. Uncertainties bred in the wake of 9/11 also play a role here, although they are summoned indirectly through a story that Agnes is writing about a ship collision in Halifax Harbor in 1917 that left 2,000 dead and hundreds blinded. Operating with a heightened sense of their mortality, the former classmates regard each other's life decisions with a mixture of envy, wariness, and spite. The skillful, prolific Shreve, who seems to turn out one best-seller per year, seamlessly moves her story between the horrific events of Halifax Harbor and the nearly as horrific reunion, underscoring the fleeting nature of happiness and the painful trade-offs it often requires. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316154512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316154512
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Jana L.Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When Anita Shreve is good, she's very, very good, and when she's not good, she is boring. A few of my friends have really enjoyed this novel, and I value their opinions, so perhaps I am in the minority when I say I found "A Wedding in December" to be, at best, a ho-hum read filled with tired metaphors. Set in a post 9/11 America with the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts as a backdrop, seven former classmates, all graduates of Maine's preppy Kidd Academy, reunite for a weekend. The occasion is an intimate wedding hosted by Nora, one of the original group members, who owns a quaint bed and breakfast. Bill and Bridget, the honored couple, were sweethearts thirty years before but married other people. Now they hope for a second shot at happiness, (against some serious odds), and want to share this special time with those who knew them when they were in the throes of first love. The group had once been extremely close but, with one or two exceptions, most have not seen each other since high school graduation. There is much unfinished business to be raked-up, adding juice to the plot, including sharp memories of a foreseen tragedy and, consequently, lots of guilt shared by all.

Predictably, there is an abundance of reminiscing, fantasizing and reexamining of lives and goals as the characters discuss past and present and make some interesting discoveries. An emphasis is placed on tragedy - both 9/11 and a devastating disaster which occurred in Halifax Nova Scotia during WWI are brought into play frequently, as is a disaster of another kind, a catastrophic illness. Adultery also plays a big enough role that it might as well have been a character. Ms. Shreve shines no new light on an old theme, however.
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Format: Hardcover
When graduates of an elite prep school gather for the first time since graduation twenty-seven years previously, old secrets are revealed and passions long buried ignite. Facing the mid-life crises that plague so many, members of the class question their choices in relationships and ponder the proverbial road not taken.

The occasion that brings this once tightly knit group together is the wedding of two of its members. Bridget and Bill were high school sweethearts, but he found another love in college and jilted her. A meeting at their 25th high school reunion led to rekindled romance and he has now left his wife and daughter to be with Bridget and her 15-year old son. The wedding is urgent since Bridget has terminal breast cancer. Determined to make Bridget's last years perfect, Bill arranges a wedding with the help of fellow classmate Nora.

Nora owns a New England inn that was once the home she shared with her famous husband, a renowned poet. Now a widow, Nora is the perfect hostess arranging the details of the wedding and visiting with her former classmates, especially Harrison.

Harrison has entered the publishing world in Toronto, but marriage and two boys he adores have not extinguished the flame that still burns in his heart for Nora. Immediately attracted to her when they were both seventeen, he didn't act quickly enough and she soon became the girlfriend of his best friend Stephen.

It is the absence of Stephen and the mystery surrounding his tragic death just weeks before graduation that hovers over this group and explains why friends once so close have been estranged for more than two decades.
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Format: Hardcover
Like a number of authors Anita Shreve writes in the shadow of previous, highly successful novel. It's difficult to read and review this novel to without making comparisons to "The Pilot's Wife." To get the issue out of the way, the comparison is not a good one - A Wedding in December is a weaker novel on every front. The painfully stilted first line illustrates the primary weakness. Human beings simply do not speak the dialogue Shreve cooks up. Whether they're baring their souls or discussing the weather the characters use words and phrases straight out of a writing workshop which tends to grind the narrative to a halt whenever "the glaciers are receding" rears its head.

Next we have the characters. The two leads, Harrison and Nora, are remarkably unlikably characters. It seems that Shreve intended them to be likable but two more self-aborbed, selfish, chilly and judgemental characters would be difficult to imagine. Nora is presented as a paragon of virtue and desirability although the only support given for this are endless descriptions of her interior decorating and catering skills. Instead what we see of Nora lends itself more to a control-freak of the manipulative sort, her "tell me a story" line gave me the creeps by the end. Harrison has been carrying a torch for Nora since high school, a theme Shreve has handled earlier and better in "Where or When," and here goes beyond inexplicable to self-indulgent. Does Harrison really love Nora or is he just in the throes of a mid-life crisis? Shreve wants us to see a love story. I wanted to slap the two of them.
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