Monday, October 1, 2012

The Wedding Group by Elizabeth Taylor

With more attention than ever being cast Elizabeth Taylor's way due to this being her centenary year it is the perfect time to enjoy her books among like-minded fans, veteran or new.  Harriet is hosting this month's read-along with The Wedding Group so please do drop by at some point to find out what others have to say.  I've resisted the urge to join in for each and every read simply because gobbling up all of Taylor's work in one year would feel too much like eating a whole box of chocolates in one go.  Not that it wouldn't be a delight but delayed gratification extends the pleasure I think.

In the novel's introduction by Charlotte Mendelson, Quayne is described as an "artistic family compound where the womenfolk bake bread 'on a large scale'".  Regardless of the address, the settings in this book all have a sense of the insular about them.  The extended family is headed by its patriarch, Harry Bretton, a bit of a legend in his own mind when it comes to the world of art.  Firmly embedded in the Roman Catholic religion the family has their boundaries neatly laid out but wouldn't this story be a boring one if someone didn't question things or go against the grain?  Enter Cressida 'Cressy'...

'...Cressy had not been allowed to finish her last year.  Not exactly expelled, but the suggestion was that, all the same, it would be better if she did not remain.  She had broken bounds, was often missing for hours at a time, and had had some strange notions, which younger girls were all too ready to listen to.'

Desperate to strike out on her own, Cressy takes a flat in the village above an antiques shop owned by a rather incestuously-close sounding brother and sister.  Finally able to be herself, bliss comes in the form of a gas-ring and a tin of beans but the frustration of a knitting pattern constantly going wrong wears thin and independence turns into loneliness.  Cressy's sensitive nature means her tears are perilously close to the brim at the best of times but lately she is in floods.  She has merely traded one upset for another.  A friendship with a middle-aged journalist who is a bit on the lonely side himself perks up the situation, could life-long bliss be just around the corner for these two?

Although described as one of Elizabeth Taylor's weaker novels I have to say that I absolutely loved it.  Everything that the author does so well is all there from the deliciously claustrophobic houses, spot on characterization and meticulous observation.  Taylor also has a genius for writing about lives and situations that break your heart without feeling depressing, well not to me anyway.  If you've read the novel recently then perhaps you can indulge me and if you haven't then it's best you click away now...but did Cressy remind anyone of Stacey from Gavin and Stacey?  With her slattern-ish ways and bubbly naivete the image became a beacon fairly early on.  So sorry, Elizabeth...

Thanks so much, Harriet, for hosting a wonderful book and entertaining read!


  1. I thought of trying to read along all year long, too, but then I thought better of it as well. I think it's about time to pick up another of her books, though. I loved At Mrs Lippincote's earlier this year. Maybe I still have time before the year runs out to read just one more.... I think even so-so Elizabeth Taylor is still heads and shoulders above the rest!

  2. So glad you loved it. My review coming up later today!

  3. And you know you can leave a link to this review on Laura's Elizabeth Taylor page - Reads ? or I can do it for you. In any case I'm putting a link on my own review which is about to go live.

  4. I haven't read this one--adding it to my to-read list now. Will also be interested to hear what you think of The Provincial Lady in Wartime. I finally read Provincial Daughter when we were in Norfolk last month after finding it at the Oxfam Bookshop--my best Oxfam find since The Priory :)

    K x

  5. Darlene, that's a lovely review! I just published mine. Not my favorite Taylor but it had many of the elements I love about her writing.

  6. Darlene, after reading one of your reviews I discovered Elizabeth Taylor and recently read a biography by Nicola Beauman. I had read Blaming and thought Taylor a wonderful writer. Any suggestions for a 'must read next' option? At the moment I'm reading a biography on Elizabeth David (its all Elizabeths in my reading list at the moment!) and its a terrific read.


    PS Great review btw!

  7. I liked it very much too : ) it is one of Elizabeth Taylor's weaker novels but there is still a lot that is interesting. I really liked Midge and her manipulations.

  8. I meant to read all of my ETs this year as part of the readalong, but like you I didn't want to gobble them all up at once. I don't actually have a copy of The Wedding Group, but I shall look out for it as this sounds particularly interesting and I love how she manages to create such unusual people. This has reminded me that it's about time for another ET...I think I only have two unread ones left now, along with the short stories. Which to choose?!