Monday, January 28, 2013

Cheerful is in the Eye of the Beholder


I had just added Cheerful Weather for the Wedding to my movie queue when Simon suggested that there be a read-along of the 1932 novella by Julia Strachey. I couldn't say no to that and so, while getting my hair cut and colored last week on a typically dreary January afternoon, I was surprisingly transported away to a sunny March day with blustery winds, where I waited (somewhat) patiently with a unique cast of characters for Dolly Thatcham's wedding to begin.

(Note: as the characters are pretty much the main attraction of this story, this post will be a bit spoilery.)

As we wait in the long hall, I find myself sympathizing with thirteen year-old Robert as his older brother Tom harasses him for ::gulp:: having on the wrong socks. Tom has always been so bossy and stuffy, hasn't he? I cringe to see Kitty, younger sister to the bride, acting all of her awkward self in a dress that doesn't look half as good on her as it does on dear Evelyn. I mean, yellow is a gorgeous color for the spring but it doesn't suit everyone, does it? And not to speak ill of the hostess but I swear that Mrs. Thatcham gets more dotty with every passing year. Even I heard her tell poor Millman to set up the luncheon in the library. Oh, and then there's that tragic young anthropologist Joseph sitting in the other room. I know that he and Dolly spent a lot of time together last summer but I can't recall ever thinking they were "together" exactly. Well, it seems like he might have been sweet on her after all. Was that a tortoise that just passed by the window? How bizarre! And who are all of these people flowing in to luncheon now? Cousin Lob, Canon Dakin, Aunt Bella -- what a diverse and amusing family. It makes up for this dreadfully blustery day. I hope the wedding itself is half as entertaining as the morning has been.

Dolly and Owen
And back to the present ...
Because this novella does focus so strongly on characters, with only a bit of action right toward the end, I'm a bit worried about the movie version. Looking at the cast list, they've added characters and obviously taken some of the implied situations from Dolly's past and built them up into the bulk of the movie. However, most of the appeal of the novella was in not knowing everything and in having the drama being a bit of a non-starter. How close were Joseph and Dolly really? Is what he revealed to her mother at the end of the story true? Or was this simply a case of him feeling upset that he didn't open up when he had the chance? What if they had a few more moments alone before the Canon came along? I think I'll likely postpone watching the film for a bit to put some distance between it and this well-crafted story.

Feeling not the slightest bit cheerful despite the weather,
K

10 comments:

  1. What a fun way to write your review, Kristen!

    The 'reveal' about Dolly is rather surreal, isn't it? I wonder, I wonder...

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    1. Thanks, Simon! I'm really glad I joined in on this group read!

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  2. I am always surprised when readers choose to take the "reveal" as fact. Like you, I am more inclined to question it. Joseph seems so frustrated and upset, desperate for the attention that Dolly seems disinclined to give him, that I don't think the reader should have any confidence that he is a reliable source. To me, he seems like just the kind of person who would make trouble just to spite others, just because he could, and I think the expanding of his story once he starts telling it is proof of that.

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    1. I think once he got to "albinos" I changed from belief to disbelief. :) It's interesting that he wanted attention so badly but then refused to speak up when given the chance. He was very immature -- probably not marriage material anyway!

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  3. The one baby to two babies might indicate his malice, certainly, but then again, are the dates right (and how do you count them in such a surreal novel?!)? It was pretty common to send girls 'in trouble' away then. Really enjoyed your review Kristen - and glad you got the tortoise in!

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    1. I loved that bit about the tortoise. I thought it was hilarious that Owen didn't think there would be appropriate food on the boat. I wish he had said what he thought it would eat.

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  4. I wouldn't trust his reveal as fact but suspected him of exaggeration rather than total invention - perhaps it was a just-in-case trip or, more likely, a fire-break to get her away from the unstable man who stared at her just a bit too hard? :)

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    1. I was teetering between exaggeration and invention but settled on invention because he never did speak up. If there had been more of a real connection between him and Dolly, I think he would have at least had something to say. As it was, he really had nothing. I'm more inclined to believe she just went on a trip because that's what young adults did then.

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  5. Is that Felicity Jones? You should watch the movie if so because I adore her. She's so adorable! She was in an adaptation of Northanger Abbey with this guy who looked like British Lee Pace, and it was a sweet dear of an adaptation. I wanted to give everyone in it a hug.

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    1. Why yes it is. I don't remember her from that Northanger Abbey so much but I really liked her in Chalet Girl even though it was a totally stupid and predictable movie.

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