Monday, August 08, 2011

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (1932) by Julia Strachey

Julia Strachey, a niece of Lytton, seems to have been a junior satellite of the Bloomsbury Group and written only two novels over the course of her long life. The first of these is a novella-length affair, set on a March day in a country-house where a modest wedding is taking place. The matter-of-fact opening is very good, promising all sorts of comic possibilities. From then on, however, the going is pretty uneven. The absurdity of the characters and their interactions in the chaos of the wedding day is well done and often very funny, somewhat in the Evelyn Waugh manner. The bride is swigging rum to deal with nerves, there is an escaped tortoise about and the bride's mother is not quite all there at the best of times. But the purely descriptive passages, attempts at creating a different mood somehow clash with this and bog the thing down. There is a twist at the end which retroactively sort of justifies the sombre intimations... but the story still fails to achieve a unity of tone and purpose that might make it memorable. It's not unlike Chekhov (doubtless revered even in Bloomsbury, and quite possibly a direct influence): snatches of humour do not dispel the underlying dreariness.

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