Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Stratchey (1932)

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.

*Spoiler alert*

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.

Here are some of the book reviews as part of the read-a-long: Stuck in a Book, Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, Alex in Leeds, Bibliolathas. Very mixed!

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9 thoughts on “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Stratchey (1932)

  1. I think the movie adaptation sounds awful but I do love this book. It is one of my favourite Persephones and, to me, certainly the funniest. You’re right that it is not a book about character development but I think it does succeed as an expression of mood. Everyone is so tense and brittle and more than a little bit hysterical, which is what makes it so amusing. I am interested that you mention Joseph stopping the wedding as an alternative to the “depressing” resolution that Strachey provided. For me, that would have been the most awful possible outcome of the story!

    • I do agree that it is tense and brittle – but for me it didn’t spark amusement, alas. And yes, Joseph stopping the wedding wouldn’t have made it any less depressing! He would only have regretted it. The moment when he sits and feels relieved that he didn’t stop it might be the most depressing bit – nobody feels strongly about anything, and then neither did I. I am surprised I didn’t like it – an expression of mood, and brittle amusement sounds very much my sort of thing.

  2. Pingback: Review: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey « Alex In Leeds

  3. Oh rats, on all counts, I was rather looking forward to it! Perhaps I’ll just get it from the library and then if I don’t like it, it won’t be taking up valuable shelfspace.

  4. I’ve just read it as well (last night), and am mulling it over, wondering if I need to read it again. It is so *very* short – I think “novella” might almost be an overstatement – “long short story”, perhaps?
    I didn’t find it terribly amusing. Just rather sad. The bottle of rum and all, and the whole Albania thing. What the ****?!
    I wanted to like it so much, and it wasn’t at all what I had expected. Maybe another go will reveal hidden qualities!
    Haven’t seen the movie and have no plans to seek it out. Can’t imagine how much padding this one would take to reach 90 minutes, though I’m sure it would be visually spectacular in the right hands.
    It’s a very *visual* book, isn’t it? The descriptions are positively vibrant.

  5. I think if you don’t find the humour in the novel, then it would certainly feel like a waste of time – and humour is so subjective! I definitely prize it chiefly for how much it made me laugh, how dizzying silly and hysterical it can be – the actual characters and their feelings meant very little to me.

  6. It really does polarize opinion! I thought it was definitely black humour, and that vignette with Nellie which I presume was meant to be hilarious, was completely lost on me (unlike, say, the running gag with the socks, which was funny but with quite a dark undercurrent). It certainly captured a very socially conforming pent-up lifestyle where the ‘done thing’ had priority.

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