This came to me with a post-it note on the cover saying, “Not really a book, but rather a minor incident between covers.” As he always does, the lender hit the nail on the head. This is one of the lovely books published by Persephone, a UK imprint that turns out beautiful paper-bound editions with attractive cover art, printed endpapers, and what I believe are called “French flaps,” where the cover folds over to give you a flap for copy. They’re always beautiful and readable; mostly women writers.
Julia Strachey, Lytton Strachey’s niece, wrote two pieces of fiction in her lifetime. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding appeared in 1932. It runs 119 pages. The type occupies 3″ by 4″ on 5.5″ by 7.5″ pages. The action, such as it is, takes place on March 5, in the home of Dolly Thatcham, whose wedding day it is. The narrator is omniscient, but prefers to lurk in the corner of a room, minutely observing the behavior of the bride, her family, and their guests.
Not, one guesses, a happy marriage in the making. Dolly is privately nursing a bottle of rum while Joseph, a family friend, lingers on the edge of tears all day. Alas, he isn’t the groom, but a tongue-tied former suitor who always thought Dolly must know he loved her. Ooops. The portrait of Mrs. Thatcham is especially pitiless, as she trots around resolutely promoting the facade of propriety necessary to the day. Most striking is Strachey’s technique of watching her characters’ minute behavior avidly, without commenting: “The strange thing was the way the eyes kept ceaselessly roaming, shifting, ranging, round and round the room. Round and round again…this looked queer–the face so passive and remote seeming, the eyes so restless.” That’s the bride she’s describing. The effect is discomfiting, as is the whole novella.