When Simon at Stuck-in-a-book suggested a ‘readalong’ for Julia Strachey’s Cheerful Weather for the Wedding I was straight in there. I acquired a lovely Persephone edition as one of my Christmas reading treats for myself, and looked forward to it a great deal. But alas, with many apologies to Simon, I find I am a non-believer!
It’s not quite as bad a the different of opinion over Diana Tutton’s Guard Your Daughters, but Cheerful Weather just seems a bit, well, thin to me. I know it is a novella, but there are short stories that pack much more feeling, thought and character development into them. You can see the trailer of the film adaptation here. It appears that pretty much the whole novella is in the trailer with plenty more that isn’t (lots of snogging and some vomiting!) – how will they fill 90 minutes?
Cheerful Weather is often described as ‘comic and ‘delightful’, but like Vintage Reads I failed to laugh. If it is a comedy, it is a very black one. The novella takes place on the wedding day of Dolly Thatcham; she is to marry the Hon. Owen Bigham. In the house, waiting to speak to her, is Joseph Patten. Joseph is in love with Dolly. Dolly might well be in love with Joseph.
There is recurring conversation about socks between some boys, Tom and Robert, which is amusing,as Robert continually demands that Tom change his ‘impossible’ socks before the wedding and Tom responds only by telling his elder brother to ‘go and put your head in a bag’. But it is a frustrating kind of humour, this, of repetition and stasis, like the novella as a whole.
Or if there is resolution, it is depressing, as Joseph never does dramatically ‘stop the wedding’. He finally cracks and runs up the stairs to go to her – but she is quietly leaving by the back stairs. Then there is an incident with a bottle of black ink on the wedding dress that again prevents the necessary conversation… and Dolly goes and married Owen. Is it that this isn’t a comedy, but a quietly desperate, hysterical farce? The nail in the coffin of this novel for me is that I never became involved enough in the characters to care what happens to them. There are many characters, but they never become more than two-dimensional players in the farce.
I’m not sure if the film adaptation actually got a cinema release – if it did I missed it! Perhaps only in the US so far. It was quite widely reviewed, but most were negative.