I finished Julia Strachey’s Cheerful Weather For The Wedding the other day – I’m reading short books in snatches while writing my dissertation, and this is one of the Persephone Books is one I’ve meaning to read for a while. Elaine at Random Jottings gave it to me many moons ago, but somehow it’s only just worked its way to the top of the pile.
Well, I’m very glad Elaine could spare it, as I loved every second! This short novel (120pp) all takes place on the wedding day of Dolly and Owen. And it’s very, very funny. There is a semi-serious romance storyline through the centre of it (should Dolly be marrying Owen? Will they actually get married?) but it is the host of secondary characters which make this novel (or perhaps novella?) so amusing. My favourites are brothers Robert and Tom – the latter spends the entire novel trying to persuade the former to change his emerald-coloured socks: “Robert, your mother would desire you to go upstairs instantly to take off those bounder’s socks, Robert, and to change into a respectable pair. Will you go, Robert?” He is distraught lest their schoolfellows – ‘men from Rugby’ – be at the wedding and witness this calamatous social faux pas. Robert’s iterated response is “Go and put your head in a bag.” I kept hoping these two would crop up, even though they essentially said the same thing every time they appeared, it was done so amusingly and accurately that I could have read pages of Tom’s serious monotone and Robert’s complete lack of care.
And then there’s dotty Nellie-from-the-village, one of the ‘help’:
“The gentleman that come to see about the hot pipes out in the lobby, said to me, ‘ have two of my own,’ he said, ‘what are both of them big strapping great boys by now. And oh… good golly! – what devils and demons they do be!’ he said. ‘Well,’ I said to him, ‘my son Teddy is exactly the very same thing over again,’ I said. ‘All the time this cigarette-smoking, they pointed boots, and all of it, why, devils and demons isn’t in it with such as they are,’ I said. No. Very decidedly not!”
The whole family, and especially servants, are very funny characters – slightly ridiculous, but not too exaggerated as to not ring true. I suppose that’s why the humour is so good – rooted in the actual. Sort of a less-hyperbolic PG Wodehouse, perhaps. Crossed with Virginia Woolf.
According to IMDB there is a film of Cheerful Weather For The Wedding due in 2010. The only information about it at the moment is that Sinead Cusack is attached – I suppose she’ll play Mrs. Thatcham. I’m not sure the novel will make a good film, actually – sometimes lines which are great written down lose everything when spoken. Still, I’ll keep an open mind until I see it, which I undoubtedly will.
If you’re wavering on Cheerful Weather For The Wedding, I encourage you to give it a go (though this comes with a warning that not everyone agrees with me: see this review by Vintage Reads) – it’s recently been released in the beautiful Persephone Classics edition (pictured) which should make it more easily available… and I might just have to get myself a copy of that one too. I think it’s entered my Top Five Persephones, and since I’ve read all or part of over thirty, that’s not bad at all.