Posted by: Sally Ingraham | May 4, 2010

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

Cheerful Weather, Julia Strachey

A kind of brassy yellow sunlight flooded all the garden. The arms of the bushes were swinging violently about in a really savage wind. The streaked ribbons from a bush of pampas-grass, immediately outside the door, streamed outwards in all directions. This bush remained squashed down as flat as a pancake to the level of the gravel terrace in a curious way, and it looked unnatural, as if a heavy, invisible person must be sitting down on top of it.
“Have you observed,” began Evelyn with a giggle, “that Mrs. Thatcham’s one criterion of a beautiful day is whether or not it is possible to see across as far as the Malton Downs?”

This little quirk of Mrs. Thatcham’s made me giggle as well. This is a book full of small, bemused laughter – the kind of laughter that keeps a person balancing on the lip of a precipice, the absence of which would allow a person to pitch over into the abyss. On the day of her wedding, Dolly teeters, catches herself by grabbing a handy bottle of rum, and goes off with the Hon. Owen Bigham, leaving her tortoise and last summer’s lover behind on the drive with her family and the furious March gale.

In spite of it’s dark side, this is a light, pretty tale told with wonderful skill by Strachey, who was a contemporary of Virginia Woolf, and what is more, was respected by her. I’m eager to read her other book, The Man on the Pier. I’ll have to see if it is in the Persephone Books catalog. This was my first Persephone book, by the way. I bought it last November, and finally got around to reading it now, due to the perfect timing of Claire of Paperback Reader and Verity of The B Files’ Persephone Reading Week, and the oh so short length of the book itself. Glad I did. I may fit my other two Persephone titles in before the end of the week, although Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple is a bit too long, supposedly, for this month’s reading plans! Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf is another adorably short book though, so that should slip in with ease. 🙂


  1. Such wonderful descriptive imagery, Sarah! Unfortunately The Man on the Pier has not been published (yet) by Persephone; I had no idea Strachey had written something else, which I must seek out.

    So pleased that you enjoyed your first Persephone and during Persephone Reading Week, no less. Flush is perfectly quick reading -and such a charming novella with hidden depths- for the week but Someone at a Distance isn’t dense and makes addictive reading.

    • I’ve heard lots of great things about Something at a Distance, and Claire (kiss a cloud) said the same thing about its readability. I’ll definitely read it soon!

  2. I’ve not come across Man on the pier – it’s not a Persephone title, but I shall have to look out for it! Thanks for highlighting that in your review!

    • Hopefully it’s still available somewhere. Strachey’s simple but brilliant style is worth seeking out again. 🙂

  3. “Small bemused laughter” catches this book quite perfectly.

    Man on the Pier also goes by the title An Integrated Man. I spotted a little Penguin edition of Cheerful Weather and An Integrated Man on a bookstall last summer, and snapped it up.

    Let’s hope there are some more inexpensive copies out there for others to find.

    • Wow, it IS proving difficult to track down, under either title. Amazon and The Book Depository are coming up short. Huh. Luck you, in that case! I’ll have to do more searching. 🙂

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