It is the Feast of the Assumption, my parents’ anniversary. A good day for a Catholic wedding.
The light drenched St. Patrick’s Church, and a few flies buzzed and the fans wafted a breeze as my grandfather walked my mother down the aisle. She wore a high-necked lacy dress, a white veil, and white high heels (not too high). She carried a bouquet of white roses. My sunburned father, in a suit she picked out, waited at the altar.
She threw out the wedding album after the divorce.
And the church was destroyed in a tornado in 2006.
There are two ways of looking at the marriage.
1. It ruined her life. (That was the popular view.)
2. She lived longer because my father left. (That is the private view.)
Thinking about how much she enjoyed her wedding, I made a list of Weddings in Literature.
1. Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding. In this remarkable novel about twins, sexuality, and depression, the narrator, Cassandra, a suicidal graduate student, drives from Berkeley to the family ranch for her twin sister Judith’s wedding. Judith, a musician, will marry Jack, a medical student, in a private ceremony which Cassandra, their father, and grandmother, and perhaps a few of their grandmother’s friends will attend. Their mother, a writer who was often absent, died of cancer, and Cassandra has not been the same since. She tries to talk Judith out of getting married. And disaster follows.
2. Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding. Gorgeous, grotesque, comic Southern fiction at its finest: during a hot summer, confused 12-year-old Frankie fantasizes about her older brother’s wedding and hopes to go on the honeymoon. The African-American maid, Bernicee, has raised Frankie and tries to keep her imagination in check. The action takes place in a few days. Lots of beautiful description of twilight and cicadas.
3. Pamela Hansford Johnson’s The Last Resort. Narrated by Christine, a happily married writer who often visits a hotel where her friend, Celia, a businesswoman, retreats, this novel is the horrifying story of a love affair gone wrong. Celia is radiant as she tells Christine about her long affair with Aveling, whose wife, Lois, is an invalid dying in a hospital. After Lois dies, Celia expects to marry him, but in a malicious twist Junius, a homosexual whose friends she has disparages, takes revenge by introducing Aveling to an attractive younger woman. You will not believe the wedding at the end.
4. Margaret Drabble’s A Summer Bird-Cage. In this witty, light first novel,Sarah, the narrator, goes home from Paris to be a bridesmaid in her older sister Louise’s wedding. The glamorous Louise gets drunk the night before the wedding and wears a dirty bra under her wedding dress. Sarah has always had a distant relationship with Louise, but heartily dislikes the writer she is marrying. Sarah has a wonderful time at the wedding reception, and is shocked to learn that her two favorite artist friends have gotten divorce. . What will happen to Louise? she wonder. You’ll have to read it.
5. Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy’s Wedding. If you did not read the Betsy-Tacy books l, you missed a great experience of growing up female The series follows Betsy and her best friend Tacy in Deep Valley, Minnesota, from age 5 through Betsy’s wedding. Betsy is an aspiring writer, and finally marries another aspiring writer, Joe Willard, whom she knew during high school but kept missing chances with. There is a Betsy-Tacy Society, and, yes, I once visited the beautiful town of Mankato, Minnesota (the real Deep Valley) and took a self-guided tour and saw Maud (Betsy)’s house, Tacy’s house, etc. (We were there to take a very long bike ride on a trail that goes past many of Minnesota’s lakes.)
6. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Not what you’d call a happy novel, but Kitty’s wedding to Levin is perfect.
7. Elizabeth Taylor’s The Wedding Group. I haven’t read this in a very long time, so am putting this together from Goodreads: The heroine, Cressy, at 19 rebels against her artistic family who lives communally with her grandfather. She finds a job and flat in another village. She falls in love with a journalist, David, who lives with his mother, and they marry. But years after the wedding, his mother still dominates.
Anyway, read it and you can correct any errors!
8. Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre portrays the worst wedding in history. Since you’ve read it,you know what happens to Jane and Rochester, but it is worth a reread.
9. Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark. Ross Poldark comes back from the Revolutionary War in America to Cornwall only to find that his girlfriend, Elizabeth, is about to marry his cousin Francis. Very reluctantly, he agrees to attend their fancy wedding. Not as bad as Jane Eyre’s, but quite a trial. Later he marries Demelza, a more interesting character, so it’s all for the best.
10. Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? Neither Alice Vavasour nor Lady Glencora is keen on the gentlemen they are expected to marry (John Grey and Plantagenet Palliser respectively), but there are wedding bells eventually, and you must read it to learn who the bridegrooms are.
An excellent list – I keep promising myself to read that Trollope!
Oh, thanks! When you get around to T, you’ll love him. It’s just a matter of mmod!
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Err, I meant ‘mood.”
Brilliant post. I have read a few of those books, I loved that Trollope years ago and Jane Eyre is an old favourite of course. The Wedding Group in my opinion is the oddest of Elizabeth Taylor’s novels very Murdochian it’s interesting but untypical of her work. I have a new copy of Cassandra at the Wedding waiting to be read. I love the sound of that PHJ book though.
Oh, dear, I must reread the Taylor. Murdochian? How strange of her! You’ll love Cassandra at the Wedding (I’ve actually got the Virago, but NYRBs are easier to find here so I went with that pic).
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Katie Fforde has a new book, A Vintage Wedding. It’s teetering on TBR Mountain.
Oh, I love Fforde’s books. I’ll look for it.
I prefer Eng LIt to USLit but “Delta Wedding” by Eudora Welty, assigned in my last year of EngLit BA in France left me without a word. I could not go to the classes: I was already ill butthe teacher had recorded the whole course for me and I just loved the book and the lecture. It was so much more than a lecture – a true discovery. To be added to your list of weddings. If you wish, of course?
Camille, thank you for reminding me of Delta Wedding! I love Eudora Welty. Now i want to reread this. Oh, dear, will it never end?
And I am so sorry illness prevented your attending the classes. The teacher did a good thing in recording the course for you.
AND I read Delta Wedding in Virago Press: to add to your Virago Month! Well done!!!
Yes, I was very lucky with all my teachers: they all did recordings of their classes. I had had my first minor stroke then. They helped a lot.
Yay, thanks for the Virago tip! And I am so sorry to hear you had a stroke. Very sad and difficult to deal with, especially when you’re a student and no one knows about such things. I hope all is well now.
Two minor stroles, a breakdown after one of my brothers’ death, then Mother’s death from breast cancer two years ago, a burnout, and a premature ending of my studies as I am now the guardian of two girl cousins who suffer from Down Syndrome. This is why I am so active on list servs,, blogs and why I blog as well: I try to go on by my own means…
Oh my, such a lot of sadness. You have a lot on your plate and I cannot tell you how much I admire you for raising your cousins. Thank God we all get joy from reading!
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Reading is a wonderful abilty. I am so glad My Little Family (my two girls) read and write and like to do some research and I try to give them all possible intellectual facilities. I have discovered that I could write because friends have made me write literally, in English. My main blog is not on WordPress:it is there for instance: http://camilledefleurville.blogspot.fr/2015/07/holidaying-in-dordogne-perigueux.html
I made this with my girls. I am awkward with WordPress…
And I have started writing short stories in English as well with the help of an American friend (broad comments and everything that is not fine!), a British friend (editing), and a publisher friend (but French and living in Moscow with antenae in Paris). For the time being I cannot write in French: it is too painful