Minggu, 27 Januari 2013

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding: Readalong

Right, books at the ready!  I've re-read Cheerful Weather for the Wedding ahead of seeing the new film (which I'll be doing in one week's time, at The Phoenix in Oxford, which has a one-night-only screening) and I'm opening up this post for discussion.  It won't be one of my usual reviews, because I've actually already reviewed the novel (novella?) here, but more of a hub for conversation about it.

But I'll give you a quick overview of my thoughts on re-reading Cheerful Weather for the Wedding.  It might be worth popping over and reading my thoughts in 2009, if you'd be so kind... basically I loved every moment, particularly the hilarious secondary characters.  Most memorable were mad Nellie (who spouts irrelevant conversations she has had with the plumber, while addressing the tea-tray) and brothers Tom and Robert, who come to a contretemps over the latter's unorthodox emerald socks.  (I'm assuming that everyone knows the basic plot by this point - Dolly is uncertainly preparing for her wedding to Owen, with a houseful of eccentrics helping and hindering her - and a bottle of rum within reach.)

This time around, I found the novella a little less amusing, but mostly because I already knew where all my favourite bits were coming.  It is testament to Strachey's humour that Nellie, Tom, and Robert have remained firmly fixed in my mind, down to their individual lines ("Put your head in a bag" still makes me grin) but inevitably surreal moments of humour heavily rely upon novelty.  Her cast of near-grotesques were still a delight, but not quite as much the second time around.

This, however, left me more able to appreciate other aspects to Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (and not just that sublime cover - I kept closing the book just to stare at it for a bit longer.)  I'd appreciated Strachey as a comic writer, but hadn't really noticed how gorgeous some of her other writing is.  Her propensity to describe every character's eyes when they arrive on the scene was slightly unnerving, but depictions of buildings and countryside were really lovely, and contrasted well with the surreal descriptions of people.  I couldn't resist this excerpt...
Dolly's white-enamelled Edwardian bedroom jutted out over the kitchen garden, in a sort of little turret.  It was at the top of the house, and reached by a steep and narrow stairway.  Coming in at the bedroom door, one might easily imagine one's self to be up in the air in a balloon, or else inside a lighthouse.  One saw only dazzling white light coming in at the big windows on all sides, and through the bow window directly opposite the door shone the pale blue sea-bay of Malton.

This morning the countryside, through each and all of the big windows, was bright golden in the sunlight.  On the sides of a little hill quite close, beyond the railway cutting, grew a thick hazel copse.  To-day, with the sun shining through its bare branches, this seemed to be not trees at all, but merely folds of something diaphanous floating along the surface of the hillside - a flock of brown vapours, here dark, there light - lit up in the sunshine.

And all over the countryside this morning the bare copses looked like these brown gossamer scarves; they billowed over the hillsides, here opalescent, there obscure - according to the sunlight and shadow among their bronze and gauzy foldings.
It can't just be me who wants to move in immediately?  But I couldn't leave you without a moment of Strachey's wonderfully wicked humour...
"How are your lectures going?" asked Kitty of Joseph, a kind of desperate intenseness in her voice and face.  This was her style of the moment with the male sex.
And now over to you!  If you post a review of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding during the week, please pop a link in the comments (I'll probably do a round-up later in the week) but I'd also like this to be a place for discussion - do reply to each other's comments, and I'll join in, and it'll be FUN.  I won't post for another two or three days, to give everyone a chance to see this.

Here are some questions to start things going:

  • Did you enjoy the novel, for starters!?
  • What do you think Julia Strachey was trying to achieve - what sort of book was she trying to write?
  • Why do you think Strachey made it so short?  Would it have worked as a longer novel?
  • Who were your favourite characters?
  • If you're re-reading, how did you opinion change this time?
  • How do you think it will translate to cinema?

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