Julia Strachey: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (1932)

Cheerful Weather

It seems my reading is very influenced by Danielle’s these days as this is the second book in a row I bought after having read an appealing review on her blog.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is an absolutely delightful little book; charming but still witty, filled with dry humour, detailed descriptions and quirky characters.

On the cover it is compared to Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster and Stella Gibbons which is apt but isn’t giving Julia Strachey enough credit for her originality.

A very crisp March morning slowly turns into a gloriously bright but chilly day. Dolly is about to get married to the Hon Owen Bingham who is eight years her senior. While she is getting ready in her room upstairs, the guests arrive and gather downstairs. Among the guests is Joseph with whom Dolly has spent a wonderful summer and possibly a love story.

The closer we get to the wedding the more things go topsy-turvy. Mrs Thatcham, Dolly’s mother, who is a very muddle-headed person assigns the same room to different people, the young cousins of Dolly chase and tease each other loudly, Dolly empties a bottle of rum, Joseph starts crying and in the end Dolly and Joseph are caught by Dolly’s soon-to-be husband in something that looks like an embrace.

Reading this book is like watching a dance on a slightly crowded dance floor. While all the dancers know their moves, they get into each other’s way, bump into each other and what we get to see is graceful chaos.

The character portraits are very witty. Dolly and Kitty’s mother, Mrs Thatcham is such an airhead. While there is huge drama going on behind the scenes, she wouldn’t even notice it, if it was brought to her attention. All she seems to care about is that there is cheerful weather for the wedding. Dolly and Joseph’s relationship is a mystery. We really wonder whether she is doing the right thing in marrying Bingham.

The people and their drama unfold within pages full of delicate descriptions which reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s early work. There are descriptions of the way light falls into a room through fern pots and colors it in a greenish hue, of the shades of dresses, the shape of a flower, the pattern on a lampshade. These are delicate and exquisite descriptions which paint a wonderfully rich picture.

Cheerful Weather for a Wedding is a most enjoyable little book which I can recommend to anyone who likes the writing of the early Virginia Woolf or E.M. Forster, infused with a dose of dry wit.

The novella has just been made into a movie starring Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) as Mrs Thatcham. I was very keen on watching it but it has received an incredible amount of bad reviews and an IMDb rating of 5.1.

Has anyone seen the movie?

And has anyone read other books by Julia Strachey?

40 thoughts on “Julia Strachey: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (1932)

  1. I’m glad you liked this one as well–I thought it witty and charming, too, with just a dash of suprise at the end. I am always afraid I’ll enthuse about a book and then someone taking the recommendation will end up hating it–but so far so good it seems! I am still curious about the movie and will get it from Netflix when it is finally released here on DVD (maybe next month I think). Too bad it didn’t receive better reviews, but then readers seem to either love or hate the book, so maybe there is still hope for it.

    • I wasn’t aware of people hating the book. hard to imagine, what’s there not to like.
      Yes, it’ seems that those who expected something in the vein of Downton abbey were very disappointed. I might still watch it but without much hope.
      As far as I’m concerned, all of your recommendations have been winners so far. You, Guy, Litlove and Lizzy seem the ones who make me buy the most books and I have never been disappointed.

      • Hate is probably too strong a word, but I was surprised to find that some people didn’t quite get on with it (Simon at Stuck in a book linked to a few reviews that were less enthusiastic about it). I loved it, too, thought it was perfect for the novella form, quite charming, but not in a syrupy way. Off topic, but also about a movie–have you seen or do you plan on seeing the film adaptation for The Flowers of War? Just curious as I watched the movie trailer now that I am finished reading and the movie looks quite different from the book.

        • The end is a bit odd and I’m not sure about the things Joseph said. is any of it true or did he just want to shock Dolly’s mother. Some people hate an ending like that. I find that in life we do not always get answers, so I don’t mind.
          I really want to watch The Flowers of War. Novroz has reviewed it already and loved it. It seems different from the movie but uses the same elements. It should be good. I finished the book as well. It was a surprisingly quick read.

          • Yes, and (thankfully) fairly painless one as well. I will have to check out Novroz’s review! I don’t mind endings where things are left sort of ambiguous–I know that can sometimes grate on some readers, but I kind of like letting it be left up to me to decide what to think about it all. I need to go back and read it again–or at least read the ending again. Maybe the movie will clarify things a bit?

            • I don’t know. I had my interpretation but both worked. I just saw that one reader who participated in Simon’s read along was really shocked by one interpretation and it led her to hate the whole book.
              Yeah well…

      • Oh, and I agree–it’s nice having reading friends whose tastes coincide with your own–I get many reading suggestions from you as well and have very much enjoyed the the literature and war books you’ve chosen these last few years (well, a few have been harder than others, but you know what I mean).

        • It’s what I like most about blogging, that I discovered people whose tastes I can rely on. Do you know I never even knew what “middle brow was” before I started blogging. Those writers are not translated much.
          Yes, I know what you mean. Soem were hard for me as well. I was glad The Flowers of War wasn’t one of them. The blow came towards the end, so to speak.

  2. Caroline: I’ve been aware of the film. I’ve seen it pop up when looking for other titles.

    Is this a Persephone book title? The problem with these sorts of books is that they can become just too TWEE when made into a film: case in point Mrs Palfrey at the Claremeont which was an excellent book but a sticky sweet film.

  3. Not sure this would be my cup of tea, Caroline, as almost every review I’ve seen of it makes me think of it as a book version of a frothy Brit romantic comedy (some of which I enjoy, some of which I detest!). Still, glad you liked it so much + I’ve always thought that cover art was kind of cool.

    • I only saw the trailer and she was very similar to Downton Abbey. I think you would like this but but for once I must say, i wouldn’t have minded if it had been longer.

    • It is very much like real life. You will always find a chacater who is drunk within a few minutes, those who empty the buffet, those who get sentimental or silly. Drama and what not. I liked it a lot.

  4. This sounds like a charming and entertaining story. I felt I could see it in my mind. And Dolly’s mother sounds extremely amusing, although probably not to her daugters. I love the book cover, it’s so pretty.

    It’s a shame about the movie. I’ll still watch it, I think!

    • It is charming and a quick read. Persephone books have very often such nice covers.
      Having a moter like that would be so annyoing but reading about her is fun.
      I might still watch the movie as well.

  5. When I first started reading this post I thought of Woolf and then saw your comment. This novel sounds like a great read and I’ll look for it. BTW, did you like Woolf’s To the Lighthouse novel. I can’t remember if you recommended that one or not.

  6. I own this and really must get to it. I seem to have seen it cropping up all over the blogosphere lately and all the reviews have done a good job of whetting my appetite. And yet I want to save it for when I need something accessible and amusing and to be sure of what I’m getting! I do put so many books aside for the promise of exactly the right moment.

    • I suppose the movie and Simon’s readalong must have brought it to people’s attention.
      I’d be interested to hear what you make of it. I went to Simon’s blog and was surprised, there really were a lot of bad reactions, in parts linked to something at the end which can be interpreted in different ways.
      I particularly liked the descriptions and how they all are a little mad.

  7. you know…you shouldn’t focus much on the rating. I always saw rating after I saw the movie 😉

    I often have different opinions with most sites that offered movie rating…and that’s why my movie/book rating always based on whether I hate it, like it or love it…in other word, my own feeling.

    • Yes, I agree, but it still makes me a bit suspicious. Bad ratings are not always wrong. I usually find that good ratings can be very wrong, meaning people like it better than I do.

  8. Stop writing reviews like this or I’ll never keep my word about not buying books. 🙂

    This is the kind of books I’d enjoy (and I should read Danielle’s blog more often).

    • I’m sure you would like it. Maybe you could get a Persephone subscription as a gift from someone. 🙂 Their choices are fantastic.
      Danielle makes me buy a lot of books but luckily my book buying ban doesn’t ask for a zero diet, just cutting back… But, like Guy’s, it’s a dangerous blog.

  9. I’m a fan of Virginia Woolf and EM Forster. I re-read Howard’s End last year and was so glad I did. It had been many years since I originally read it (college, maybe?). It’s amazing how much of the storyline had left my memory. It was lovely to reconnect with the Schiegel sisters.

    So it sounds that I would enjoy this book as much. In fact, when I was looking for this title on Amazon, the write up includes this fact: “…first published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in 1932.”
    I found that very interesting!

    I haven’t seen the movie, but oftentimes the movies aren’t as good as the books anyway, so I wouldn’t let that color my opinion.

    • I absolutely loved it and it’s no coincidence the Woolfs published it, there is a similarity in the atmopshere and the descriptions. I love E.M. Forster. I couldn’t think of many more writers whose every book I loved. I need to re-read him some day.
      I suppose people thought the movie would be more like Downton Abbey but the story isn’t as cheerful as the title may indicated.

  10. Yes indeed, excellent book. Makes me wish I hadn’t left my copy in Maine. I want to read it again! And I’ll definitely still check out the movie… 🙂

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