Book Review: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
Julia Strachey

(Aside: Don’t you love this portrait of Julia Strachey by fellow Bloomsbury-ite Dora Carrington? And the cover painting “Girl Reading” by Harold Knight shown below is also pretty darn fabulous.)

It is a good thing I included this title in my November Novella Challenge, because I have been having a hard time deciding which of my fabulous first twelve Persephones I should read first. One would think diving into that stack wouldn’t really be an issue, but the existential angst over which to read first was killing me. Then again, who am I kidding, now I just have existential angst over which to read second.

I liked Cheerful Weather for the Wedding less than Simon at Stuck In A Book, but I liked it more than Nicola at Vintage Reads. And I felt a bit like Bride of the Book God when she writes:

The word that kept on springing to mind as I read this was brittle; not a criticism as such, but the story struck me as being one of those bright and witty pieces produced by many in the twenties and thirties, some of which were much more successful than others.

Frankly, in my mind the bride probably looked about as happy on her wedding day as dear old Julia Strachey does in her portrait.

This novella is only 118 pages but it took me until about page 60 before I started to really feel the rhythm of the book and get over my urge to quit reading it. I know that makes it sound pretty dire, and it isn’t as bad as that by any means. I actually think I would enjoy the first 60 pages much more now that I have finished the whole thing. It is kind of like the brilliant TV series Extras with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I only truly appreciated the first season after I finished the second season and the finale show. I agree with Simon that the humor in Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is funny and charming—especially the green socks thread (no pun intended). I think I was just worried that I hadn’t really caught on to an actual story by page 60. But then after page 60 when one finally starts to feel like something is happening, it all starts to fall in place and feel right.

I think it is also the kind of book that would benefit from a real face-to-face book club discussion. A little back and forth banter with others who had read it would help put it into perspective for me. It was worth reading, but perhaps an inauspicious place to start my Persephone experience.

UPDATE: Apparently I was channeling Paperback Reader’s May review of this book when I compared Simon’s review to Nicola’s.

November Novella Challenge: 3 down, 1 to go.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

  1. Mrs. B. November 17, 2009 / 12:10 am

    Interesting review. I haven't read this one but everyone seems to feel the same about it. It's obviously not a favourite Persephone. Cheer up though… you have some very good Persephone reads still waiting for you!


  2. claire November 17, 2009 / 1:28 am

    This is one Persephone which never interested me, so it's kind of affirming to have read your thoughts. Very curious as to which is next for you.. :)


  3. verity November 17, 2009 / 4:54 am

    I personally quite liked it, although it is a little while since I read it. I can't remember offhand why I did, which I suppose means that it hasn't stayed with me very well – always a hallmark of a good read!


  4. Rachel November 17, 2009 / 5:49 am

    Yes I have heard mixed reviews of this and that's why it's never been a priority for me to get it. It's unusual for Persephone to pick a dud but some of their books naturally appeal to me more than others and this is one I am happy to pass on. Very interesting and insightful review Thomas!


  5. JoAnn November 17, 2009 / 6:57 am

    Very interesting review…I'm intrigued, but this wasn't one of the books that called out to me from the catalog. I do love the portrait and the cover though.


  6. bookheaper November 17, 2009 / 11:56 am

    Was hoping to contribute an appropriate quote about Julia Strachey to this, as I'm reading Virginia Woolf's Selected Diaries at the moment, but when I turned to the index she doesn't even appear, unlike about fifty other Stracheys. She must be in the Deselected Diaries.
    The differences of opinion on this book make it tempting, though, just to find out what I think.


  7. Paperback Reader November 17, 2009 / 1:47 pm

    I wrote exactly the same thing about liking it less than Simon of Stuck-in-a-Book but more than Nicola of Vintage Reading.

    Not my favourite Persephone but I have found that it has grown on me more since reading it.


  8. Thomas at My Porch November 17, 2009 / 6:52 pm

    Mrs B: Oh, I don't need cheering up, I am definitely excited about the 11 other Persephones that await me.

    Claire: I wish I knew Claire, i wish I knew. I have three books going right now and one of them is War and Peace…

    Verity: That's why I started writing reviews. There are too many books on my “books read” spreadsheet that I don't remember a thing about.

    Rachel: I wouldn't call it a dud. I think it was worth reading. And frankly, worth buying for the cover.

    JoAnn: The pictures are lovely aren't they.

    Bookheaper: Definitely worth a glance.

    Paperback Reader: I added your link to the post. I had originally wanted to refer to more reviews, because I know it has made the rounds. But in the end I wasn't finding them easily and got lazy.


  9. skirmishofwit November 18, 2009 / 4:22 am

    What a shame that your first Persephone experience was a bit of a let down! There are much better reads ahead of you though :) I started Cheerful Weather a few months ago, but put it down after the first 40-odd pages. Interesting you found it improve after 60 – I am tempted to try it again now.

    Love the art work!


  10. Thomas at My Porch November 18, 2009 / 8:02 am

    skirmishofwit: Interesting that you put it down after 40 pages. My rule of thumb is 50 pages before I abandon. But in this case since I only had 68 more to go I thought I would power through. But it is good to know frankly that you gave up. Kind of makes me more comfortable with my lukewarm review.


  11. savidgereads November 19, 2009 / 4:30 pm

    I love the cover of this Persephone it has to be said however the story and premise itself has never quite done it for me. One of the ones I would like to read/own but am not desperate too… yet!


  12. Ti November 20, 2009 / 12:48 am

    I have yet to review Cheerful. I'm not sure what I was expecting but I was a tad disappointed with it. So disappointed that I'm not sure it deserves an entire post about it. I read it during read-a-thon and may lump it in with some others I read that were meh.

    BUT (big but) I love, love, love the cover and glance at it affectionately every now and then.


  13. Thomas at My Porch November 20, 2009 / 10:17 am

    Simon: Being my first Persephone, I wasn't sure how to feel about this one–was worried that I was missing something. Nice to know other Persephone fans were mixed at best on this one.

    Ti: I remember you reading this one for the readathon. As I read it (and it didn't blow me away) I actually thought “Hmm, maybe that is why Ti hasn't written about it yet.”


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